The Mi’kmaq Solution to Health Care

If you read this article in the Toronto Star, you’ll find that some 100,000 individuals have applied to become Mi’kmaq status Indians in the province of Newfoundland.

In the article, the following sentence appears: ‘Under the 2008 agreement, those who receive Indian status — and their descendants — will be eligible for federal payments for post-secondary education and non-insured health benefits, including vision and dental care.

For one specific individual, we have this quote:

The dates marking the birth and death of Sarah Welsh confirmed she was Pearce’s great grandmother. They also confirmed she was the granddaughter of John Matthews, a Mi’kmaq Indian born in 1780 in Cape La Hune on the island’s southern coast. Matthews, in other words, was Pearce’s great, great, great grandfather.

In other words, a person can go back something like six generations, show a Mi’kmaq blood connection (however diluted) and receive free vision and dental care.

Wonderful. I now suggest this strategy for, over time, removing inequities in vision and dental care for all Canadians. The strategy is simple: deliberately intermarry. Eventually we could all be Mi’kmaq. Then we’d all get free vision and dental care. With all our descendants, forever. Plus assisted post-secondary education.

I submit that several cynical observations can me made:

  • Our governments, including that of Newfoundland and Labrador, and our Federal government, don’t think through the ‘system’ implications of their words, actions, laws, and promises. Predictable consequences aren’t predicted.
  • Ontarians should thank their dentists and dental associations, who lobbied extensively and successfully prevented dental care from being part of OHIP. Without this and similar (provincial) avoidance of dental health care, the Mi’kmaq might not have been so motivated as to have followed up on this promise.
  • Ontarians, who pay more post-secondary education tuition than most provinces, should ask why we do, and if the investments made by other provinces in this area are profitable to future generations’ well-being.
  • Pandora’s box has been opened. Now there is (see the above pointed-to article) a rush to rewrite the application criteria for being recognized as Mi’kmaq. There is probably no nice way out of this.

Now for the dumb questions:

  • Is the whole argument spurious? Is a six-generation single-relative connection enough to be considered Mi’kmaq, or anything else, in terms of race or culture?
  • Will the federal government cave in, and fund these benefits?
  • Will any of us question this?
  • Is it fair?

I would particularly appreciate comments on the last point.


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