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Caragana ~ A Pink Ribbon Campaign

11 Nov
Caragana arborescens Siberian Pea Tree

Caragana arborescens Siberian Pea Tree

Caragana, the bush that perhaps saved the prairies. This wonder was planted around farms to act as a wind break, when the dust bowl of the dirty thirties carried the agricultural top soil away. Caragana, is used in arid desert-like area as a part of a perma-culture programme to nitrogen-fix the soil enhancing the quality. There is no doubt about it, the area around Caragana bushes is lush and luxurious with plant life. Around the one room schoolhouse yards, Caragana served as an amazing living fence.

However, what many pioneers and homesteaders in Saskatchewan had not realized is that the amazing Caragana is also edible, very nutritous, with surprising health benefits as well. The seeds from the Caragana pods can be prepared as any other legume, ie. the dried beans or peas purchased in the store. The young seedpods can be eaten from the trees, with a delightful snap pea flavour. And the beautiful tender yellow flowers, are simply delicious. Eat them on the trail, or scatter some within your next salad for a treat for the eyes as well as the palate.
“The whole plant, known as ning tiao, is used in the treatment of cancer of the breast, and the orifice to the womb, and for dysmenorrhea and other gynecological problems.” However Only Foods recommends that those who are pregnant not to eat the Caragana.

Next time you are out and about try a nibble of the seed pods. In its vegetal form, Caragana, does have the potential to be a staple food crop. Caragana is a very nutritious legume. What an amazing opportunity to wear a pink ribbon, and have a nibble of Caragana.

Genealogy Hint and Tip:

Next visit to the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan remember to ask to see the Pioneer Questionnaire file  These questionnaires were sent around to households Circa1950 and asked questions in regards to lifestyle such as Pioneer Diet, General Pioneer Experiences, Schools, Churches, Recreation and Social Life, Farming Experiences, Folklore, Health, Housing, Local Government, and Christmas. There is even a listing which can be searched to determine if your ancestor took part in this early survey.


Another Edible Legume Arcol-o-gist.

Caragana arborescens – Lam. Plants for a future.

Two forever foods

Caragana arborescens Siberian Pea Tree.

a deciduous legume tree or shrub of the Caragana genus in the family Leguminosae. It is an edible nitrogen fixer and a great source of chicken fodder. Practical Plants.

Caragana arborescens Wikipedia.

Caragana. Caragana arborescens. ‘Ross’ Caragana, Siberian Peashrub Government of Canada. Agriculure and Agri-Food.

Caragana or Siberian Pea Shrub. United States Department of Agriculture. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Permaculture Plants: Pea Trees and Pea Shrubs Temperature Change Permaculture.

Shelterbelt Varieties for Alberta – Caragana, Siberian Peashrub. Government of Albera. Agriculture and Forestry. December 17, 2015.

Siberian Pea Tree (Caragana arborescens) Raw Edible Plants.

Siberian Pea Tree (Caragana arborescens) Only Foods.

Siberian Pea-shrub. Caragana arborescens Lam.

 ” if you devote 22% of a quarter section, that’s 160 acres, to trees, you can double the crops.’ It’s a question of planting trees strategically. The trees reduce the speed of the wind, modify the climate, they modify the difference in temperature from day and night, and above all the trees make it possible for the earthworms to come into the land, and the earthworm casts its own weight every 24 hours. And a well-populated acre of worms casts 30 tonnes of worm castings per acre per year. That’s equal to 30 tonnes of farmyard manure on that land.” ~ Richard St. Barbe Baker


Saskatchewan’s Health Care Evolution Towards Medicare – Part 1

6 Aug


Saskatchewan’s Health Care Evolution Towards Medicare

Part I

Medical Logo with Hands

Medical Logo with hands


Much has been written about Medicare, its birth in Saskatchewan, and the key players involved in its evolution. The following is a brief backgrounder, a reference to identify the evolution of health care in Saskatchewan. By examining the origins of medicare, and the actions of some of the more prominent people involved it is hoped that readers will remember the growth and evolution of medicare and what forces came into play during the history of health care. We invite readers to Phone or email Marilyn Decker , – – granddaughter of Matthew (Matthias) Anderson if you have observations, comments or suggestions you could share. It would be much appreicated if you could fill out a short Survey answering questions like: What are your memories of the doctor’s strike in 1962? Were you working in the medical field at the time? What are your memories of life before medicare?

Pioneer Saddle Bag Doctor

” Medical care was practically non-existant in the very early times. Doctors and medicines were scarce and there weren’t any hospitals. Home remedies were used and although perhaps good to a certain extent, there were many untimely deaths, especially from communicable diseases such as diptheria, small pox, typhoid and scarlet fever and consumption (T.B.)”Grummett p 17 “Resourcefulness in cases of emergency was fostered in the home of the pioneer on the western plains and home remedies had to be relied upon. Some of the favoured remedies were said to be, by those who spoke from experience, none too pleasant to the palate, but they had great healing power.”Storer p. 104

“Doctor’s those days had to be entirely dedicated to survive – that is, on the prairies. Often saw him in the dead of winter, in his voluminous coon coat, bundled into his cutter, out to serve humanity in the bleak outlands; rain, shine or blizzard.” Greenblat p.19The prairie weather set obstacles for both rural resident and pioneering prairie doctors. “The roads were few and poorly maintained. When it rained, the mud was deep and sticky, often clogging the wheels of the buggy…The winter was the most trying time, especially when blizzards would blow up and continue for a day or two or more. The road would blow over with snow and only here and there could one see the track that had been made. When telephones came in, one would try to see from one pole to the other. If snow got deep on the road, it would be difficult to pass a cutter or sleigh coming from the opposite direction lest you slid off the road and find it very hard to get it back on. During those early days and for many years later, outbreaks of typhoid were very common. …It was hard to get about in the winter and as telephonic communication was bad or nil, when one got a call to see a serious case, it would be arranged when the next visit was to be made.”MacLean p.63

Much is said about the pioneer doctor travels: “Her practice required frequent traveling. For difficult trails or a distance that meant camping and the tending of horses, she always had a driver. On the Reserve, or to settler’ homes within a range of ten to twelve miles, she drove Malin; and the doctor and her beautiful pacing mare became known through the country.”Buck p. xvi

The British North America Act of 1867, Sec. 92 set out that the local public health activities should be established and maintained by institutions set up by Provincial Governments. Provisions were set out for medical inspection of school children by medical health officers or public health nurses.StatsCan 1939 p. 1027

Typhus fever, diptheria, typhoid, scarlet fever, the Spanish Flue influenza epidemic of 1916, venereal disease (vd), tuberculosis -(consumption)-, polio, accompanied the accidents, gangrene, blizzards, frostbite, broken bones, infections, food poisoning trials and tribulations of the early settlers. To quell the outbreak of contagious disease, Maurice MacDonald Seymour implemented a highly publicized public health campaign, “The Seymour Plan” encouraging cleanliness, and sanitation. Seymour organized the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) in 1905. Between 1885 and 1905, he served with the North-West Territories Medical Council, as either both president and vice-president.

According to Dr. Hugh McLean who practised medicine 1906-1912 a doctor could expect one dollars for an office call, two dollars for a house visit, and fifteen dollars for a confinement case. Additionally a dollar a mile may be added to the bill. In another report, before Medicare, “doctors make house calls and charge $4 to $7 for one. An office visit costs $5 or less. An appendectomy is $125. Removal of a tumour by a neurosurgeon is $350. Complete obstetric service- pre-natal, delivery and post-natal care – $80 for a general practitioner, $100 for a specialist.”Cannel July 14, 1962

“In 1909, The Public Health Act created a Bureau of Public Health responsible to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The Bureau played a largely supervisory role and was replaced by a more powerful Department of Public Health in 1923.”Mombourquette. P. 101



A typhoid epidemic struck Medicine Hat in 1888. The Canadian Pacific Railway rallied around its divisional point. A Territorial bill was passed, and fund raising began for a hospital to support the town, the railway workers away from home. By 1890 a facility was raised. By 1910, the voluntary general hospital development days were over, municipalities worked in concert with the provincial government to establish hospitals.Feather

“When the province joined confederation in 1905, there were already voluntary organisations playing a service delivery function. For example, the Victorian Order of Nurses was providing homecare and running hospitals, the Salvation Army was aiding immigrants to settle in the prairies, and find jobs, the Canadian Red Cross was running hospitals, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was providing services to needy people, Yorkton Queen Victoria Hospital was providing inpatient services and the Regina Council of Women was instrumental in establishing other voluntary organizations to provide human services (e.g. Regina Children’s Aid Society, Regina YWCA).”DeSantis p. 11 Dr. M. Seymour, as Commissioner of Public Health, he is appointed the first Medical Health Officer (MHO) for Saskatchewan.

Hospitals began in homes, with local nurses or doctors presiding over health care for early communities. On the arrival of the North West Mounted Police, sick bays and police surgeons began to be established at their posts. Alongside early fur trading posts and NWMP posts came missions run by protestant missionaries, Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns), and Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Canada. Missionaries would set about establishing schools, dispensaries and hospitals. The Red Cross and Victoria Order of Nurses (VON) were involved with establishing the first hospitals. The 1885 North West Rebellion set up temporary military hospitals at local hospitals or town homes. The Union Hospital Organization was set into place facilitating the construction, and maintenance of hospitals by two or more municipalities. Further, these municipalities which formed the hospital district could enter into an agreement to provide free hospital treatment for certain classes of patients at the cost of the RM.sup>StasCan 1939 p. 1034

From the late 1800s to about 1950, women in labour could turn to a midwife, a maternity home matron or a doctor for help in delivering a new arrival. Due to vast distances and poor roads and transport by horse and cart or ox and buggy, there was a strong demand for mid wives. Births may be attended to in the home, at a maternity home in the nearby town or village or in a hospital if a city was close by. The fees for the rural doctors (if one was available) were high. Maternity homes sprang up around the province, increasing in number until 1944. “The Mutual Medical and Hospital Benefit Act of 1944 precipitated a hospital building spree.”Fung p. 63


Municipal Doctor System


“It was in 1914 that the residents of the village of Holdfast and the surrounding Rural Municipality of Sarnia No. 221 learned that their doctor intended to seek a more financially rewarding locality in which to practice. The news caused such widespread dismay that the municipal council took prompt and drastic but effective steps. A sum of $1500 from property tax revenue was offered as a retainer and Dr. H. J. Schmitt was persuaded to remain in Holdfast.”Reid p.7

Manitoba spearheaded the program of “Mother’s Allowances” in 1916 to provide assistance to mothers widowed or without any other means of support.CYB 1931 p. 1018 This program spread to other provinces.

The Rural Municipality Act of 1916 was amended to allow municipal doctor arrangements. The Health Services Board was established in the province to oversee these fee for service contracts. Gordon S. Lawson writes of the municipal doctor system which saw the introduction of Medical Services Incorporated MSI schemes in 1955. MSI allowed the patient to choose physicians anywhere in the province, and with better highway and vehicular transportation, rural residents wished access to specialist services available in the urban cities and towns which was not provided for under the municipal doctor plans.


Health Insurance Districts

in 1902, Anderson arrived and set up homesteading near Bulyea. In 1919, he returned to Norway, and “had the opportunity to gather information in regard to social services, particularly health services. I began to wonder why we couldn’t adopt a similar plan in Canada with adjustments suitable to our conditions.”Anderson p. 43

The Public Health Act was amended in March 1923 wherein the Bureau of Public Health was made a Department of Public Health under a Minister and Deputy Minister appointed by the government. This Department administered the Public Health Act, Vital Statistics Act, Union Hospital Act, an Act to Regulate Public Aid to Hospitals, Venereal Disease Act and the Tuberculosis Sanatoria and Hospitals Act.StatsCan 1927-1928 p. 963-964

As of 1926, Statistics Canada reported that there were 58 general, maternity, and isolation hospitals in the province, two sanitoria for consumptives, 2 hospitals for the insane and 1 home for orphan and refuges. The total number of patients treated at the 58 hospitals were 42,614, staffed by 883 doctors and 254,090 nurses and support staff.StatsCan 1927-28 p. 963-964

In 1927, Matthew S Anderson, Councillor of the Rural Municipality (RM) of McKillop 220 attended the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipality (SARM) Convention and proposed a health insurance plan based on the model from his home country – Norway. However SARM delegates could not see the feasibility of the proposal with the taxation scheme afforded to the RMs of that era. These localities were served by thirteen doctors; Holdfast (Rural Municipality of Sarnia No 221), Craik (RM of Craik No. 222 ), Beechy (RM of Victory No 226 ), Bethune (RM of DufferinNo No 190), Birsay (RM Of Coteau No 255), Brock (RM of Kindersley No 290 ), Chamberlain (RM of Sarnia No. 221), Freemont (RM of Hillsdale No. 440), Leroy (RM Of LeRoy No 339), Lintlaw (RM of Hazel Dell No. 335), Rush Lake (RM Of Excelsior No 16), and Senlac (RM of Senlac No. 411.).Houston and Massie. P. 28


Dirty Thirties

Drought and the economic depression years hit the prairies hard in the 1930s. It was a difficult time, medical institutions and health care practitioners were facing hard times, salaries could not be met, and renovations and improvements were forsaken. Settlers did not have money, crops failed, grasshoppers took whatever crop survived the heat and the early frost took the rest. The tremendous heat wave took an unprecedented number of lives. The huge dust storms caused dust Pneumonia, a respiratory disease affecting everyone across the plains. Russian thistle, (tumbleweed) was pretty much the only plant which grew during this decade. Not only people were short of food, but livestock were starving. The local doctor was lucky to earn $27 a month.

Beginning in 1931, special grants were provided by the provincial Relief Medical Services Branch to physicians and hospitals to allow them to proffer services to residents unable to pay for health care. The Bureau of Labour, and Public Welfare and Northern Settlers Branch of the Department of Municipal Affairs receive medical advice from the Relief Medical Services Branch.CYB 1939 p. 1035 ‘Northern Settlers’ were those single transients and transient families who transferred to the northern area of the province seeking better conditions away from the drought area in the southern section of the province.CYB 1941 p. 908In 1931, C. Rufus Rorem reported thirty two municipalities with doctors working under the municipal doctor plan.”Twenty had twenty-one full time doctors; twelve other municipalities had part-time agreements with sixteen physicians”

In 1938, the provincial government under Premier William John Patterson, proposed that Anderson set out the health service insurance plan for his RM. Anderson had been reeve since 1930 and a councillor since 1922 and worked towards his goal of Providing a cooperative health system – during the dirty thirties, the finances of the community was desperate, and few to none could afford any health care at all. “The initial tax was $5 per person up to a maximum of $50 per family. The population covered was 2,350.”Anderson p. 64 The RM of McKillop, town of Strasbourg, and the two villages of Bulyea and Silton were covered becoming “Health District No. 1


Municipal and Medical Hospital Services Act

or the “Matt Anderson Act

Matt Anderson in the Rural Municipality of McKillop No 220 instigated the passing of the Municipal and Medical Hospital Services Act (the “Matt Anderson Act“) in November 1938 which allowed any group larger than ten persons to incorporate a health insurance plan. From this statute, RMs could supply hospital and medical services to the rural community by levying either a land tax or a personal tax. After this act was passed The RM of Strasbourg and Silton (RM Pittville No, 169) also followed the RM of McKillop No. 220 passing a similar bylaw to take advantage of the new legislation that same year. Anderson travelled to other regions introducing the concept. RM of Caledonia No 99, RM Of Chester No 125, RM of Lajord No 128, RM of Lumsden No 189, RM of Longlaketon No 219 established municipal medical plans by 1941. The RM of Webb No 138 followed by 1943.

The new health care plan met with favourable press, and incited keen interest across the province. The main alteration in health care was that doctors submitted their bills to the municipality rather than to each individual patient. In this way physicians were paid monthly. In 1938, Dr. R. G. Ferguson tallied 546 provincial doctors, of which 121 were under some sort of municipal contract.Houston and Massie p. 33

Commercial insurance companies sprang up providing support for the residents of Saskatchewan in the face of unpredictable medical and hospital care.Taylor p3-4 Doctor sponsored schemes such as Medical Services Incorporated, Saskatoon Medical and Hospital Benefit Association, Regina Mutual Medical Benefit Association, Group Medical Services, were some of the agencies which arose to meet the health care needs in urban and rural areas. These proved invaluable to the residents of Saskatchewan following World War II when the province began restructuring after the war effort and veterans returned home.

In 1941, the Dr. John J. Collins questionnaire received this reply from one of the rural doctors; “Any system is to be preferred to the present. Collections appear hopeless. I do not know how medical men can hope to carry on out here [all year] under present and future conditions.”Houston and Massie p. 33


Health Services Board Inquiries

Over 1939 and 1940 Statistics Canada reported that the “Health Services Board…is inquiring into the extent and administration of the various health services existing in the province, collecting and studying data on the general situation regarding incidence of illness from all causes, considering methods for an equitable distribution of the costs of illness, studying the needs of the people with respect to general health services, and the necessity of co-ordination of those now existing.”CYB 1939 p. 1035

The Saskatchewan Health Services Planning Commission was implemented In 1946, with Dr. Cecil G. Sheps as Acting Chairman, and Dr. Mindel G. Sheps, leader of the commission. Dr. Fred Mott was the chair for the Commission, and he also headed up the “Saskatchewan Health Survey Report” began in 1947 and completed in 1951. Dr. Len Rosenfeld served as Mott’s deputy. The Hospital Insurance Act -Saskatchewan Hospital Services Plan (SHSP)- came into effect on January 1, of 1947 which provided Saskatchewan residents with free hospital care in the province. It wouldn’t be until November 17, 1961 when the Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act was passed, and the dream of Medicare in the province.


Swift Current Health Region No. 1 – pilot project.

The Secretary treasurer, W.J. Burak, in the RM of Pittville travelled to Bulyea to meet with the secretary to gather information to take back to Swift Current. “What many new comers may not know is that Swift Current and the region surrounding had the pilot plan for the whole scheme, inaugurated in 1946; thus pioneered the whole business. We had a plebiscite and it carried. Plebiscites in other regions of Saskatchewan lost.”Greenblat 30

Just as Anderson had done in the area of Bulyea, so too did Burak in the Swift Current Health Region also reach out to settlers in the south western area of the province with success. It was thus that Swift Current Health Region No. 1 was born.

Swift Current Health Region No. 1 and Weyburn Health Region No. 3 offered a complete medical care plan including diagnostic, out patient services, general practitioner and specialist services in addition to the Hospital Services Plan. Swift Current Health Region was chosen as a pilot project due to the financial straits of the settlers, and the fact that there was a distinct lack of doctors practising in the area. The land in this corner of the province had started out in the late 1800s and early 1900s as ranch land -pastures and ranges- in the south western portion of the province, and was converting to agricultural mixed farming with a corresponding rise in the population.

[The Swift Current Plan before Medicare] -For a maximum of $96 per year, paid out of personal and land taxes, even the largest Swift Current region family is totally covered for every medical necessity, from sore throat to hospital stay. There is also a small “utilization fee” to discourage needless medical visits – $1 for office calls, $2 for house calls, $3 for medical service late at night or on Sundays.”Cannel Aug 2, 1962.

For 14 years. Swift Current and area residents enjoyed the successful pilot program, physicians “submits his bill for services rendered to the health office in Swift Current which pays him 80 per cent of the fee. …He makes out better by settling for 80 per cent and frequently comes out with a yearly income of #25,000. ‘That is some $7,000 more than the average Saskatchewan doctor elsewhere earns.’ “Cannel July 14, 1962.


Julia Adamson: Author and Webmaster Sask Gen Web E Magazine

Turn to Part 2


It is quite natural that Canadians used to medicare are bringing up the controversy regarding the United States Obamacare program in their conversations.
This is an interesting time, observing the reactions, positive or negative that Americans are having with these new insurance policies. We, as Canadians may indeed be wondering how anyone could be against it.

However, in Canada when medicare was introduced, there was in fact, a 23 day strike against Canadian medicare that made international headlines. In contemporary times, few remember the inauguration of medicare, and the strike in health care service that lasted three weeks, a time during the summer of 1962 not to be critically ill.

This experiences are a reminder of the need to preserve personal memories of these events, especially as those who can remember through these times are now are at least in their sixties.

Please take the time to fill out our online survey; Saskatchewan MediCare & Doctor’s Strike – 1962 Survey asking these questions:

What are your memories of the doctor’s strike in 1962? Were you working in the medical field at the time?

What are your memories of life before medicare?

Where did you live?

How old were you (teens, twenties, etc.)?

How did you get information (newspapers, radio, TV)?

Was medicare or the strike a topic of conversation at home or work?

Were you or family members concerned about your health during the strike?

Were you covered by a municipal plan, MSI or other insurance?

If you worked in the medical field, what was the attitude of co-workers?

Email Marilyn Decker, – – granddaughter of Matthew (Matthias) Anderson if you have observations, comments or suggestions you could share. Saskatchewan MediCare & Doctor’s Strike – 1962 Survey

Saskatchewan’s Health Care Evolution Towards Medicare – Part 2

6 Aug

Saskatchewan’s Health Care Evolution Towards Medicare

Part II

Medical Logo with Hands

Medical Logo with hands

Go to Part I

Tommy Douglas and the CCF

“Tommy Douglas’s Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) government was elected to power on July 10, 1944 with this promise:’ To set up a complete system of socialized health services with special emphasis on preventive medicine, so that everybody will receive adequate medical surgical, dental, nursing and hospital care without charge.'”Greenblat 30 The depression years followed by World War II had placed a strain on the province’s population. The citizen’s were ready for a improvements in the rural health care services, and access to medical care for the general public. The best that Premier William Patterson, Saskatchewan Liberal Party, could do would be to pass The Saskatchewan Health Insurance Act to take advantage of any new federal legislation which may profer funding for health care.

1944, there were now 101 municipal doctors in the province.Houston and Massie p. 34

Dr. Henry E. Sigerist, a professor of Medical History, was appointed as the head of a Health Services Survey Commission (HSSC) on June 15, 1944, and the report was finished October 4 that same year. Dr. Mindel Sheps, (CCF), was appointed secretary of the Sigerist Commission C. Stuart Houston sums up the salient points of the Sigerist Report; “He [Sigerist] recommended establishment of district health regions for preventive medicine, each centred on a district hospital equipped with an x-ray machine, a medical laboratory, and an ambulance. He advocated rural health centres of eight to ten maternity beds, staffed by a registered nurse and one or more municipal doctors. He proposed that the municipal doctor plans should be maintained and developed. He noted that the public must be educated to seek medical advice at the centre, so that doctors would no longer spend a large part of their time driving around the country.”Houston: Sigerist Commission By 1950, the province saw 173 municipal doctors practising in the province.Houston and Massie p. 34

The HSPC continued on with C.C. Gibson, Superintendent of the Regina General Hospital; T.H. McLeod government’s economic advisor; and Dr. M.C. Sheps. As a result, health regions were created. “The Regional Health Services Branch is responsible for the organization and administration of health regions: six of fourteen potential regions are in operation. Regional Health Boards assisted by advisory committees administer general public health services. Health Districts within the Region are represented on a District Health Council. … In many districts within the other Regions, a municipal doctor system is in operation. Medical services are provided under a contract between the municipal authority and medical practitioner. …Hospital care is available to all residents under a compulsory hospital plan, which is financed by an annual tax of $10 for adults and $5 for children, with a $30 family maximum; any further funds needed are provided by the Provincial Treasury.”CYB 1951. p. 212 The Saskatchewan Hospitalization Act was passed in legislature on April 4, 1956.

Dr. Noel Doig relates that when he set up a practice in Hawarden, 1957, “the basic payment from the surrounding township of Rosedale for holding office hours in Hawarden would be $100 per month, and the payment from the township of Loreburn for holding two weekly sessions in a satellite office in the village of that name would be $100 per quarter. …Fees for medical care would be over and above the stipulated contract payments….I’d [Doig] also been able to secure my appointment to the staff of Outlook Hospital, 26 miles away along two gravel high3ways (No. 19 to its junction with No. 15…)”Doig p. 5-6

“The federal government passed the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act in 1957, which offered to reimburse, or cost share, one-half of provincial and territorial costs for specified hospital and diagnostic services. This Act provided for publicly administered universal coverage for a specific set of services under uniform terms and conditions.”Health Canada

In December of 1959, – the year that the “incidence of paralytic poliomyelitis rose in all provinces to tis highest level since vaccination began” – Premier Tommy Douglas “announced that an advisory planning committee representing the government, the university, the medical profession and the general public would be set up to make representations to the government of medical care.” Archer p. 303. J. Walter Erb, health minister announced the names of the Thompson’s planning committee in the spring of 1960.

This committee after visiting numerous countries, -Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Holland- and examining the structure of doctor sponsored plans submitted their interim report September 25, 1961. November 7, 1961, Tommy Douglas, elected as the leader of the newly formed New Democrat party, stepped down as premier. Woodrow Stanley Lloyd of the CCF party, succeeded Douglas as the premier of Saskatchewan. On November 17, 1961, the CCF party passed the Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act. On November 21, 1961, this same government appointed William Gwynne Davies {an initiator of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL)} as Minister of Public Health.

In 1961, Statistics Canada reported that public medical care programs are existant for three provinces. Saskatchewan locally operated municipal-doctor programs cover about 158,000 persons, and Manitoba covers about 28,000. “The Swift Current Health Region operates a comprehensive prepaid medical-dental and out-patient hospital care scheme for about 53,000 persons. These latter programs are subsidized to some extent by provincial health departments.”SYB 1961 p. 236

Provincial Medical Care and Doctor’s Strike

On July 1, 1962, Saskatchewan began operating a provincial medical care insurance program. Following his tenure on Thompson’s Planning Committee, Barootes, as president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) presided over the Doctor’s Strike, July 1, 1962 which lasted 23 days. Lord Stephen Taylor from the British House of Lords arrived to Canada at the request of Premier Lloyd, and negotiated an end to the strike between the medical profession represented by the SMA and the cabinet supporting the Medical Care Insurance Commission.

Before Medical Care locally operated municipal doctor programs in receipt of provincial grants served the population. “Since July 1962, every person who has resided in the Province of Saskatchewan for three months…and has paid…and premium he is required to pay under the Saskatchewan Medical Care Act, is entitled to have payment made on his behalf from the Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Fund, for medical, surgical and obstetrical care, without limit, in the office, home or hospital, from his physician of choice…Physicians providing insured medical services may elect to receive payment in a number of ways:

  • they may contract for a salary…
  • they may choose to receive direct payment from the administering public agency, the Medical Insurance Commission…
  • they may bill their patients directly, the patient in turn being paid by the Commission, on presentation of an itemized account (bill) or receipt…
  • the physician my practice for private fees, whereby the patient assumes all responsibility for payment of the doctor’s fee….”CYB 1963-1964 p. 273

“Municipal doctor plans formerly operating in Saskatchewan were discontinued with the introduction of the province-wide medical insurance program, but arrangements were being completed in the spring of 1963 to continue, under local auspices, insured medical services for some 57,000 residents of the Swift Current Health Region which as operated a prepaid medical-dental program for nearly 17 years.” CYB 1963-1964 p. 275

“The Saskatchewan medical care insurance program is financed from personal premiums plus general revenue contributions. No premiums were levied in respect of 1962, but an annual premium of $12 per adult or a maximum annual premium of $24 per family has been levied for 1963 for medical care coverage. Special corporation and personal income taxes have been introduced…along with the use of a portion of revenues from a 5-p.c. retail sales tax.”CYB 1963-1964 p. 275

In Conclusion

The federal government stepped in with funding in 1968 to support medical insurance. Leonard Shifrin noted that 8 provinces of Canada modeled health care upon Saskatchewan’s medicare plan by 1979 and the CBC states the entire nation was covered by a medicare plan within ten years of the Saskatchewan Doctor’s strike. Saskatchewan’s motto; “Multis E Gentibus Vires”, Latin for “In Many People’s Strength” represents the great cooperative community spirit, which when combined with “the right person in the right place at the right time” paved the way for Saskatchewan to become a leader in medicare.Houston and Massie p. 143

In closing, this brief encapsulation offers an overview of the evolution of health care in Saskatchewan. It is hoped that it may inspire you to reflect on the politics, the health care services, and the effect the various health care systems had on the communities. Please be inspired to comment, compare or contrast how health care impacted their own life experiences. Though this review does not include medical breakthroughs, or technological inventions, nor does it contain the emotions – the hopes and fears – however it does review the history of key events, and some of the key people behind formal legislation paving the way towards medicare. As we are collecting information, comments, feedback, and any reminiscences you may have are greatly appreciated.


It is quite natural that Canadians used to medicare are bringing up the controversy regarding the United States Obamacare program in their conversations.
This is an interesting time, observing the reactions, positive or negative that Americans are having with these new insurance policies. We, as Canadians may indeed be wondering how anyone could be against it.

However, in Canada when medicare was introduced, there was in fact, a 23 day strike against Canadian medicare that made international headlines. In contemporary times, few remember the inauguration of medicare, and the strike in health care service that lasted three weeks, a time during the summer of 1962 not to be critically ill.

This experiences are a reminder of the need to preserve personal memories of these events, especially as those who can remember through these times are now are at least in their sixties.

Please take the time to fill out our online survey; Saskatchewan MediCare & Doctor’s Strike – 1962 Survey asking these questions:

What are your memories of the doctor’s strike in 1962? Were you working in the medical field at the time?

What are your memories of life before medicare?

What are your memories of life before medicare?

Where did you live?

How old were you (teens, twenties, etc.)?

How did you get information (newspapers, radio, TV)?

Was medicare or the strike a topic of conversation at home or work?

Were you or family members concerned about your health during the strike?

Were you covered by a municipal plan, MSI or other insurance?

If you worked in the medical field, what was the attitude of co-workers?

Please contact Marilyn Decker, – – granddaughter of Matthew (Matthias) Anderson if you have any memories or reminiscences you could share. Saskatchewan MediCare & Doctor’s Strike – 1962 Survey

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