facts about parliamentary democracy
There are many structures by which countries can run a government, ranging from democracy to totalitarianism. Parliamentary democracy is a specific form of democracy that originated with the parliament and has been evolving ever since. In order to better understand this form of government that is different than the one the United States possesses, here are seven facts about parliamentary democracy.

7 Facts About Parliamentary Democracy

  1. The structure differs from a presidential democracy. In a presidential democracy (such as the one the United States operates under), the chief executive (president) and legislature (congress) undergo separate elections. Conversely, in a parliamentary democracy, the elected legislature (parliament) chooses the chief executive (prime minister). The parliament can remove the prime minister at any time by a “vote of no confidence,” which is a less laborious task than removing a president.
  2. People refer to the British Parliament as the “Mother of Parliament.” This is because Britain developed the Westminster System of parliamentary democracy: a specific system founded on centuries of traditions. Other colonial states adopted the system, such as Australia, and many of them still operate under some variation of the Westminster System today.
  3. Fifty-one countries currently operate under a parliamentary system. Among these countries are Canada, India, Japan and Spain. Most of these countries function in combination with other systems, such as a constitutional monarchy, in which a monarch may share political power with the parliament.
  4. Prime ministers’ powers vary. There are variations in a lot of the parliamentary systems around the world. A prime minister’s power can change depending on the country and allocated duties in the constitutions. The strong prime minister model exists in the United Kingdom and most other countries that were once part of the British Empire. Some of the prime minister’s powers in these countries include the power to change the structure of ministries and the ability to call for elections at any time. Countries in which several political parties must work together to maintain a legislative majority, such as Australia, Italy and Belgium, usually possess weak prime ministers.
  5. There are a few semi-presidential systems. These are systems in which a president and prime minister rule together. The powers between the two seats can vary, with one having more power than the other or both having equal influence. Most countries that operate under this system do so to put checks in place to avoid presidential dictatorships. Examples of countries with this system include Ireland, Portugal and Russia.
  6. There is often less gridlock. Along with the facts about parliamentary democracy, there are some pros and cons. Because the parliament elects the prime minister, people often observe that these two branches function better together than in a presidential democracy in which the public elects the president. Oftentimes legislation passes with less resistance, whereas the United States has faced government shutdowns when legislation was at a standstill.
  7. There can be a quick overturning of leaders and inconsistency. While legislation can pass more efficiently, a negative consequence of the parliamentary structure is the rapidity with which things can change. Because the parliament can remove the prime minister anytime he or she falls out of favor, this can lead to a lot of restructuring and inconsistent leadership. This happened during the Brexit process, in which three separate prime ministers received the appointment to deal with the aftermath of the vote.
Many believe it is important to know about the different forms of government structures so that one can examine their own country and evaluate its relative effectiveness. Hopefully, these basic facts about parliamentary democracy have provided a foundation to understand the structure and some of the pros and cons of the system.

 – Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Pixabay

 

Calgary Reduces Poverty in 2020
Over the last 6 years, poverty in Calgary reduced. From 2015 to 2017, the rate dropped from 9.8 percent to 6.9 percent in 2019. Vibrant Communities Calgary (VCC), a nonprofit organization, has advocated for communities under the poverty line since 2005. Delving into its own independent research, the results have improved with the assistance of Enough for All (E4A). This is a city-based poverty reduction strategy where its citizens, people in business, educators and government officials come together to discuss ways to solve this issue in their community. Back when it started in 2013, many community organizations and government officials made progress regardless of status.

Enough For All

The provincial government introduced the Alberta Child Benefit, which increased and indexed income support programs to the cost of living. Meanwhile, the federal government released Canada’s first national poverty reduction strategy. Most recently, E4A has already made an impact through its partnerships in over fifteen community service areas where poverty has decreased. Some have stated that the ongoing vision of this strategy has shown progress as “a community where there is enough for all,” hence the name of the project. The mission is to resume its goodwill by creating opportunities to align and leverage the work of hundreds of organizations and thousands of its Calgary’s citizens to reduce poverty in the city. It has a target of reducing Calgary’s 2015 poverty level by 30 percent by 2023. This is one of the plans that the city of Calgary intends to use to reduce poverty in the year 2020.

Market Basket Measure

When applying the Market Basket Measure to the incidence of low income in Calgary, there has been a decrease in the city’s poverty situation. It is unclear if this qualifies as a downward trend. Market Basket Measure is a measure of low-income based on the cost of a specific basket of goods and services representing a modest, basic standard of living. This includes the costs of food, clothing, footwear, transportation and shelter among other expenses for families made up of two adults ages 25 to 49 and two children ages 9 to 13. A working group of federal, provincial and territorial officials included its definition of disposable income, led by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) between 1997 and 1999.

Calgary’s City Council and the United Way of Calgary adopted this program unanimously, as well as the area’s Board of Directors back in 2013. Vibrant Communities Calgary received the steward of the strategy, acting as a backbone organization to guide the implementation of the strategy while the community acts to make helpful changes within the city. In the last five years, Calgary has experienced an increase in unemployment and an economic slump, despite the addition of 7,000 more jobs in Calgary. Despite the unemployment rate at 7.2 percent in Cowtown, it has improved steadily.

Poverty in Other Areas of Canada

Canada has an official poverty line. With the release of the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy, Opportunity for All, the federal government has announced that the Market Basket Measure will be the single measure for measuring and reporting on income poverty moving forward. The establishment of a single poverty line should create alignment across municipalities, provinces and territories.

The minimum wage is infinitely closer to the living wage. The gap between Calgary’s living wage of $16.45 per hour and the provincial minimum wage of $15.00 per hour is at a historical low of only 8 percent. Social assistance incomes continue to fall short of the poverty line. Despite a recent increase, benefit levels for income support are still about 50 percent of the poverty line.

Poverty in Alberta

The province of Alberta collectively has a poverty rate of 5 percent among children, cutting the rate in half from 2015 to 2017. In the same time frame, there were 622,000 children living below that line. This is a 2 percent drop with an 8.2 percent decrease within the past decade overall. Dating back to 2007, there were more than 1.1 million children living under the line. The major reason for this improvement is due to the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), as well as the Alberta Child Benefit. The CCB gives tax-free monthly payments to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. Additional perks include child disability benefits for children with physical and developmental disabilities. This is another way that poverty in Calgary is reducing in 2020 while helping the province do so entirely.

As for the Alberta Child Benefit (ACB), there is an increase in income support programs that aid the cost of living, community hubs and a national poverty reduction strategy involving the city. While the city is planning to further improve its unemployment rate, government officials and community organizers have developed another program. Poverty continues to be the day-to-day reality of more than 120,000 Calgarians within the province. The ACB is a tax-free amount that goes to families with children under 18 years of age with a yearly salary below $43,295. There is no income requirement, which is similar to the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit, a tax-free amount that goes to families that have a working income and children under 18 years of age.

With the number of plans put in use, along with an outpouring of support within the community, Calgary has made headway in giving its citizens a chance to hope for a better outcome of its future. These ideas have shown that one of Canada’s most populous and prosperous cities can improve as poverty in Calgary continues to reduce.

Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr

North American Free Trade Agreement
In December 2019, the United States House of Representatives passed the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, ushering in a new paradigm for trade between the three North American countries. In doing so, it ended a 30-year trading period governed by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This was a landmark trade deal that George H. W. Bush initiated in 1989 with the passage of the U.S. Canada Free Trade Agreement. Negotiations with Mexico ensued, with Canada joining the talks and a conclusion of a deal between the three, signed into force under the administration of Bill Clinton in 1994. With the adoption of the USMCA, the previous agreement has become obsolete. One can now assess the legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement, though the countries will update and analyze the agreement throughout the next few years as the components of the new deal take effect.

Proponents and Opponents of NAFTA

NAFTA broke ground in neoliberal terms. Free trade principles that Bush, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan championed dissolved tariffs and liberalized trade with a focus on the agriculture, textile and automobile industries. Supporters of the deal proclaimed the benefits that the deal would bring, including boosting the trade and economies of the three countries, particularly Mexico’s developing one. They forecasted that Mexicans would find better jobs in Mexico. Therefore, they would stay, rather than immigrating illegally to the United States. Furthermore, NAFTA would benefit U.S. and Canadian companies seeking markets for goods and cheap labor.

There were many arguments against NAFTA from the onset. Critics jeopardized the legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement before it even started. Headlined by then third-party U.S. presidential candidate Ross Perot, opponents claimed that opening the Mexican border to free trade principles would result in what he called a “giant sucking sound” as companies outsourced American jobs to Mexico to seek lower wages.

The Results

With the benefit of hindsight, experts now say that NAFTA had neither as good nor as bad of an impact on the economies of the United States, Canada and Mexico as some initially predicted. Like many things, the reality lay in the middle. While trade objectively increased, even tripled by some accounts, American jobs did indeed flee to Mexico. Many left the Midwest and created the so-called Rust Belt. An article published by the Economic Policy Institute details the extent of the losses, contending that 682,900 jobs suffered in the U.S. at NAFTA’s expense. Many of these job losses, 60.8 percent, were in manufacturing. Supporters predicted manufacturing would see an increase of up to two million in five years.

In short, U.S. companies benefited at the detriment of Mexican families. Further, two million Mexican families with previous engagement in farming activities lost their livelihoods. In addition, small businesses closed in the 10s of thousands. Between NAFTA and subsequent free trade deals with countries like Peru, Colombia and some Central American and Caribbean countries, millions experienced displacement from their homes and fled. Many fled to the United States, proving to exacerbate illegal immigration rather than alleviate it. Mexico did see an increase in jobs for a while, especially in the automotive industry, expanding from 120,000 to 550,000 since 1994. However, this has not been nearly enough to offset the harm caused; even when accounting for a boost in trade and considerable improvement in foreign direct investment to Mexico from $15 to $100 billion.

The Potential Future

Overall, companies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico benefited in some ways from free trade. Generally, this left a significant legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, it came at a substantial loss for individuals and worsened existing problems like outsourcing and illegal immigration. The biggest hope for the future lies in the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement. The USMCA, agreed to by the three countries, passed with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. Ideally, it will right some of the wrongs that NAFTA inflicted, while continuing to promote trade and economic growth in North America.

Alex Meyers
Photo: Flickr

Best Poverty Reduction Programs
In the global fight against poverty, there have been countless programs to effectively downsize this issue. Poverty reduction programs are an important part of the fight against poverty and because of this, countries should be able to cooperate and learn from one another. Thankfully, with the help of the U.N., the world has been making progress in terms of cooperating to implement good poverty reduction programs. In no particular order, these are the five countries with some of the best poverty reduction programs.

Five Countries with the Best Poverty Reduction Programs

1. China

For the Middle Kingdom, poverty reduction is a key contributing factor to its rapidly growing economy. China has helped reduce the global rate of poverty by over 70 percent, and according to the $1.90 poverty line, China has lifted a total of 850 million people out of poverty between 1981 and 2013. With this, the percentage of people living under $1.90 in China dropped from 88 percent to less than 2 percent in 32 years. China’s poverty reduction programs have also benefitted people on a global scale by setting up assistance funds for developing countries and providing thousands of opportunities and scholarships for people in developing countries to receive an education in China.

2. Brazil

Brazil has taken great steps in reducing poverty and income inequality. Brazil has implemented programs such as the Bolsa Familia Program (Family Grant Program) and Continuous Cash Benefit. Researchers have said that the Family Grant Program has greatly reduced income disparity and poverty, thanks to its efforts of ensuring that more children go to school. They have also said that beneficiaries of this program are less likely to repeat a school year. Meanwhile, the Continuous Cash Benefit involves an income transfer that targets the elderly and the disabled.

3. Canada

Canada has implemented poverty reduction programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the National Housing Strategy. The Guaranteed Income Supplement is a monthly benefit for low-income senior citizens. This program helped nearly 2 million people in 2017 alone. Meanwhile, the National Housing Strategy in an investment plan for affordable housing that intends to help the elderly, people fleeing from domestic violence and Indigenous people. With its poverty reduction programs in place, Canada reportedly hopes to cut poverty in half by 2030.

4. United States

Although the United States has a long way to go when it comes to battling poverty, it does still have its poverty reduction programs that have proven to be effective. According to the Los Angeles Times, programs such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps have all helped to reduce deep poverty. In particular, people consider the Earned Income Tax Credit to be helpful for families that earn roughly 150 percent of the poverty line, approximately $25,100 for a four-person family. Social Security could help reduce poverty among the elderly by 75 percent.

5. Denmark

Denmark has a social welfare system that provides benefits to the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly, among others. People in Denmark are generally in good health and have low infant mortality rates. Denmark also has public access to free education, with most of its adult population being literate.

It should be stressed that none of these countries are completely devoid of poverty, but they do provide some good examples of how governments can go about reducing this issue. With the help of organizations like the USAID, it is clear that this is an issue many take seriously.

Adam Abuelheiga
Photo: Flickr

Epilepsy, Indigenous
Epilepsy represents an important public health issue, particularly in low-income communities where significant disparities are present in the care available to patients with epilepsy.

Where there is annually between 30 to 50 per 100 thousand people in the general population in high-income countries who suffer from epilepsy, this figure could be two times higher in low- and middle-income countries. Up to 80 percent of people with epilepsy live in low- and middle-income communities.

Due to the higher incidence of psychological stress, nutritional deficiencies and missed medication, poverty-stricken countries are prompted with greater seizure triggers, situations that precipitate seizures. Mortality associated with epilepsy in low-income countries is substantially higher because of untreated epileptic seizures.

According to a study by The World Bank, indigenous peoples are more likely to be poor as opposed to the general population due to their likelihood of living in rural areas and lack of education. Therefore, what can be said about their epilepsy rates?

Epilepsy in Indigenous Populations

Within the indigenous populations of Bolivia, the prevalence of this non-communicable disease is 12.3 persons out of 1000. This prevalence is also reflected within Canada’s First Nations, wherein 122 per 100,000 persons were found to have epilepsy, twice more than the non-indigenous populations. The numbers were even greater among the Australian Aboriginals, with over 44 percent of patients who were admitted to hospitals identifying as indigenous.

Despite the similarity in epilepsy syndromes among the indigenous and non-indigenous populations, the former presents with more serious degrees of the disease when diagnosed. Research has stated this is related to the inequitable access of healthcare resulting from geographic isolation and cultural issues to treatment.

Geographic Isolation and Epilepsy

The Bolivian Guaraní live in the Bolivian Chaco, a hot and semi-arid region of the Río de la Plata Basin. This area is sparsely populated, but of the 49 percent of indigenous persons, 68.9 percent of them live in conditions of poverty, with everyday issues of energy and sanitation.

Nevertheless, in 2012, an educational campaign directed to the Bolivian Guaraní has been implemented by general practitioners to teach the population about the main causes of epilepsy, its diagnosis, treatment and first aid. They also target the social stigma that exists around the disease.

With the help of programs like Bono Juana Azurduy, Programa Mi Salud, Ley de Gratuidad and Seguros Departamentales, there has been an increase in the social security and improvement in the treatment for epilepsy among the geographically isolated community.

Cultural Issues

Apart from geographic isolation, indigenous populations such as the Aboriginals of Australia also have traditional health beliefs about the causes of epilepsy. For instance, environmental factors like the moon are seen as an epileptic precursor. They also associate a connection with the supernatural due to transgressions as causes of the diseases, making it more difficult to find treatment for the neurological condition.

When such cultural issues arise due to a difference in beliefs, it is important for general practitioners and patients to find a suitable course of treatment that is acceptable for both parties. Various clinics in Far North Queensland, where many Aboriginals reside, have assessed and managed the situation through gathering as much information as possible about the person’s original function and the impact of the disease on them.

They also advise other hospitals treating Aboriginal people to identify and implement strategies, whether they be medication, behavioral, environmental or social, to be developed in conjunction with the patient, their families and communities. In time, it is believed that this will lead to the best interim solution for all parties in the support network and the patient themselves.

Within the Aboriginals living in Canada, the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) has also successfully delivered treatment for epilepsy patients by working as a liaison between service agencies and clients to find the best possible treatment. Their services extend to alleviate anxiety from patients who have previously had negative experiences with healthcare.

Moving Forward

Knowing that epilepsy is a neurological condition that receives substantial stigma in indigenous communities, there is a barrier for patients to have access to biomedical treatment and have it become integrated within the society they live in. Therefore, in order to reduce the burden of epilepsy in poor regions of the world, and especially within indigenous populations, hospitals, non-governmental organizations and the government have much to do. Aid can come in the form of risk factor prevention, offering check-up clinics in rural areas, stigma-reducing educational programs, improving access to biomedical diagnosis and treatment as well as providing a continuous supply of good quality anti-epileptic drugs to patients who need it, irrespective of their background.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Pixabay

Canadian athletesOften acknowledged for achievements in their particular area of expertise, athletes are, ordinarily, the most recognized people in the world. Consequently, it is significant when athletes use their status to bring attention to global issues as well as transform lives in their communities. Here are three Canadian athletes who make a difference.

Clara Hughes

This dual-season Olympian is the only athlete in history to win multiple medals at both the summer and winter Olympic Games. As a cyclist, Hughes competed in the 1996 Olympic Games where she earned bronze in both the road race and time trial. She also finished sixth in the time trial in Sydney. In 2002, she returned to her first sport, long track speed skating and won a bronze medal in the 500m in Salt Lake City.

A documentary about Right to Play’s work in Uganda inspired Hughes to donate $10,000 from her personal savings to their programs. By encouraging other Canadians to donate to this international humanitarian organization, Hughes helped raise more than half a million dollars. In Uganda, more than a third of all inhabitants live below the poverty line, including children, the primary victims of this economic situation. Frequently, their families cannot ensure their health or well-being particularly in remote regions of the country.

Following her win in Vancouver 2010, Hughes donated $10,000 to Take a Hike, an adventure-based education that offers at-risk youth a better chance at life. The program supports hundreds of young people in altering their lives by combining academics with outdoor activities, in addition to therapy and community volunteering.

Currently the national spokesperson for Bell’s Let’s Talk Day, Hughes created Clara’s Big Ride which focuses on raising awareness of mental health issues throughout Canada.

Steve Nash

Canadian professional basketball player Steve Nash plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. As an eight-time NBA All-Star and two-time recipient of the NBA Most Valuable Player Award, Nash led the league in assists five times.

The Steve Nash Foundation, started by Nash and his family in 2001, devoted its time to assisting underserved children on a global level. The heart of their aid organization was a focus on education, enjoyment of life, health and personal development. The Nash Foundation operates as two separate private establishments: a registered Canadian charity in Victoria, British Columbia, and a U.S. charity headquartered in Arizona. Through the foundation’s platform, Nash works to increase access to critical resources and provide a basis for health and strength in communities across Canada, Paraguay, Uganda and the U.S.

The infant mortality rate in Paraguay is four times that of the U.S. While Paraguay’s hospitals treat thousands of children, they still lack access to equipment and training which has a devastating effect on health. The war in Uganda prompted Nash to co-found Football for Good, a nonprofit business that opened a Centre for Sport and Rehabilitation in northern Uganda. Nash hoped that the center would create a sense of optimism for the children caught in the chaos. The center offers sports, arts and drama programs besides counseling for children and adults affected by war.

Hayley Wickenheiser

Hayley Wickenheiser, a five-time Olympic medalist, is an award winner, community leader, history-maker and mentor. Selected at 15 years old for the Canadian Women’s National Team, Wickenheiser is considered one of the best female hockey players in the world. Wickenheiser led the squad to six gold and one silver medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics. Furthermore, she won four Olympic gold medals during the 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics. As the first female hockey player to score a point in a men’s professional game, Wickenheiser made history.

A passion for sports matched with a desire to make a difference, Wickenheiser works with organizations such as Project North and Right to Play. Project North is a not-for-profit dedicated to improving the lives of children in northern Canada. The vision is to create recreational opportunities for Inuit children living in remote Canadian communities, providing stimulating experiences rooted in play, sport and education.

In 2007, a team of Canadian Olympic athletes, alongside Wickenheiser, traveled to Rwanda for Right to Play and on a related mission to Ghana, returned to Africa in 2011. Right to Play allows children to rise above the challenges of child labor, early marriage, inequality, illiteracy and violence. Their mission is to encourage children to rise above adversity through the power of sport, games, creative and free play. Right to Play believes that staying in school teaches children dignity, respect and empowerment.

Athletes are fortunate to have an opportunity to do what they love for a living. Nevertheless, many children, as well as adults, admire athletes who set an example on how to pay it forward on a global level. These three Canadian athletes are making a difference by their efforts to create a better existence for children around the world.

Colette Sherrington
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Education in the NunavikEducation in the NunavikEducation in the Nunavik
The Nunavik is a region located at the north of the Quebec region in Canada. With an area of 507,000 km2, it is home primarily to Aboriginal population, especially the Inuit. With struggles for land rights still occurring in this area, problems of large inequalities in health care and, in particular, education, persist. Inequity in education in the Nunavik is an important issue impacting many young lives and future livelihoods.

Country Overview

According to the OECD, Canada is the most educated country in the world with 56.2 percent of adults completing two-year, four-year or vocational program. In 2010, Canada had a graduation rate of 78.3 percent, making many think that almost everyone can get a diploma. While this national graduation rate may be high, the graduation rate for the Aboriginal youth population in 2011 was only about 24 percent. In comparison, the graduation rate for non-Aboriginal youths in the country was almost 87 percent. There is a huge disparity it the educational attainment in indigenous population, in this case, the Inuit, and in non-indigenous population.

Problems at Different Levels

The question, of course, is why this difference exists? Many failures can be linked to the ineffectiveness of policy initiatives created by officials at the local (Nunavik), regional (Quebec) and national (Canada) level. One example of the inefficiencies happened in 2015 when former Nunavik students learned that their high school diplomas were not in fact real diplomas, but certificates that indicate the “attestation of equivalence of secondary studies.”

While the school board apologized, nothing could be done for the students who worked hard with the resources that they had for their achievements. While this is a problem that came about at a local level, the provincial and national governments did not aide the local government either. The school board that oversees Nunavik education has also placed responsibility on the provincial Minister of Education for not providing more funds and help to the schools.

Alleviating the Problem of Education in the Nunavik

Improving education in the Nunavik is a key component to alleviating poverty and improving livelihoods of the citizens of the region. The first step to solving this education crisis is by recognizing the problem, and this is being done both by the Canadian government and by various nongovernmental organizations. The 2018 Canadian budget dedicated almost $12 billion for investment in indigenous populations through various education endeavors, housing programs and health initiatives.

One nongovernmental organization that is doing incredible work for the Inuit population in Canada is Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. This a national organization that has a goal to represent all Inuit women in Canada, giving them a voice and better access to educational opportunities. This group works with policymakers, other organizations and community leaders to develop ideas and solutions that are most beneficial to the Inuit population.

Another incredibly important nongovernmental organization is Indspire, a cross-national Indigenous-led charity that invests in Indigenous education all across Canada. Indspire has a virtual learning center called the K-12 Institute that helps policymakers, educators and community members best educate the Indigenous population. It also has awarded over $14 million for 2018 school year through about 4,900 scholarships to Indigenous students to advance their studies. This is an incredible organization because it is run by people who understand the struggles of educational attainment in Indigenous communities.

Disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous population have a long history in Canada, but these disparities will decrease with the work of nongovernmental organization such as Indspire and Paktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, along with the country’s government actions. By educating as many people as possible about the inequality, individuals and the government can continue to work hard to close the gap of education in the Nunavik and in whole Canada as well.

– Isabella Niemeyer
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Health Program for Low-Income Families
Since 2001, the province of Manitoba, Canada, has provided 63,000 pregnant and low-income women with cash supplements to help them take care of themselves and their families. The program is called the Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit.

The supplements are “financial cushions” meant to provide women with the money they need to get health care, healthy food and nutritional supplements. Researchers who have worked with the program say that it has provided a blueprint for other provinces in Canada to follow. If this maternal health program for low-income families works well on a cross-country scale, it could possibly be further developed to help other countries as well.

Maternal Health Program

The money is not the most important part of this project, though. Because the cash supplement was only around $62 per month, the mothers cannot afford many things with it. However, the financial cushion encouraged women to seek healthier food, better transportation options and other things they might not splurge on.

Also, this was a gateway for ensuring that women get into prenatal care as soon as possible. Along with the stipend comes a community. There are approximately 70 prenatal and postnatal support groups across Manitoba that educate women about their future children, what they need to know during pregnancy, and other tips and tricks they may not have received otherwise. All in all, it has been a successful maternal health program for low-income families.

Impact of the Program

Women who have participated in the Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit program said they felt like confident mothers after going to support groups and using their supplements to better their lives. The program drew inspiration from France, the country that is touted as one of the best countries in the world to raise children. Programs like the Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit are inspiring others around the world as well.

Cambodia has set up a UNICEF funded pilot project that gives stipends to women if they follow up on their prenatal checks. It was relatively successful, which gives hope to the government and other nongovernmental organizations that funding projects like this are important in the long term. Taking care of the mother’s body while pregnant not only helps the future child but also helps the mother. It decreases the death rate among pregnant women, which can drastically change a child’s future.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 830 women die every day from preventable issues related to pregnancy and childbirth and 99 percent of those women come from developing countries. Women in rural areas are affected the most because they do not have access to adequate health care. The most interesting thing that can be concluded from these facts is that skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies. This directly relates to the cash programs in countries like Canada, France and Cambodia.

Other Countries That Need Similar Programs

There are a lot of countries that could benefit from the programs such as the Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit program and that can develop their own maternal health programs. In this article, three of such countries are listed.

Sierra Leone is the first country on the list that could improve maternal health care. There are around 1,360 deaths per every 100,000 live births in the country, which makes the situation urgent. The second on the list is Chad, a country that has approximately 856 deaths per every 100,00 live births. Children make up for 57 percent of Chad’s population and this dangerous trend could potentially leave many of them without mothers. In Nigeria, there are approximately 814 deaths per every 100,000 live births. Nigeria has looked into cash supplement programs before, but creating one specifically for pregnant women would create a great and much-needed change.

Developing countries can and should follow Canada’s example and success with a maternal health program dedicated specifically to low-income families. There is a successful blueprint in the world and it just needs to be adapted to each country that needs it.

– Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Canada
Canada has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world, but these numbers may be deceiving when the population is broken down further in the detail. The following 10 facts about life expectancy in Canada described in this article will show that despite the high life expectancy rate, there is a stark disparity between the indigenous population and non-indigenous population in the country.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Canada

  1. The average life expectancy in Canada was 82.30 years old in 2016. This can be broken down further to male and female genders, with the females life expectancy at 84 years on average and male population life expectancy approximately at 80 years. There is a large discrepancy here, however, between the indigenous and non-indigenous population in the country. According to federal documents, the people that belong to indigenous population live approximately 15 years less than people from the non-indigenous population.
  2. First Nations adults or non-indigenous Canadians are twice as likely to die from preventable health causes than non-aboriginal adults. These preventable causes are ones like pneumonia, breast cancer and tuberculosis. Many of these deaths could be prevented if these people had better access to health care.
  3. People of the indigenous population in Canada are more likely to experience inequalities in health care than people of the non-indigenous population. For example, they are more likely to wait for treatment in emergency rooms or visit several different hospital emergency rooms to get treatment for illnesses. This poor care may be the result of intrinsic discrimination in the health care system.
  4. Mental health problems are also more likely to be the problem of the indigenous population. In Aboriginal communities, the suicide rate is five to six times higher than the national average. Inuit youth population also has a suicide rate that is 11 times higher than the Canadian average, and it is one of the highest suicide rates globally. Mental health is a critical determinant of a healthy person, and due to lack of access to proper health care, the indigenous population may be more at risk for the continuation of these illnesses.
  5. One way that Canadian government and official institutions are targeting this inequality is by recruiting more indigenous doctors to the medical field to improve cultural sensitivity and to draw attention to issues that indigenous population faces. There is also an initiative between the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada and the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada. This initiative aims to devote part of the undergraduate medical study to indigenous health care and problems in the health care industry. While this is a slow process, it represents work being done to ensure better health care and life outcomes.
  6. High life expectancy in Canada is correlated, in part, with education. According to the OECD, Canada’s population is the most educated in the world with 56.27 percent of adults that have completed a two-year, four-year or vocational program. The discrepancies between indigenous and non-indigenous population life expectancy mentioned above may also be due to the differences in education. For example, the Inuit population in the Kativik region of Quebec has a graduation rate of 25.9 percent while the total graduation rate of the Quebec region is 79 percent.
  7. Differences in education are also reflected in job acquisition and earning potential. Due to lower levels of education, people of the indigenous population are less likely to be employed in professional, managerial and technical jobs that typically provide opportunities to earn more money. Indigenous peoples are more likely to be found employed in jobs with less earning potential that do not require a post-secondary degree. These jobs include trades, service industry, or agricultural jobs. Differences in work and earnings may lead to lower income and less access to much-needed services that can ensure survival and prolong life.
  8. In 2012, according to the First Nations Information Governance Centre, the unemployment of the indigenous population was 13.9 percent, 5.8 percent higher than the non-indigenous population unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. Unemployment can negatively affect many aspects of life, including both mental and physical health, as well as increasing poverty levels. This can certainly explain lower life expectancy rates.
  9. Poverty also influences indigenous population more than non-indigenous population. Over 80 percent, or 297 out of 367 Aboriginal reserves, had a median income lower than the national poverty line that Statistics Canada considers to be $22,133. Poverty is directly linked to chronic stress that can drastically influence health outcomes and thus lower life expectancy.
  10. One nongovernmental organization fighting these harmful effects described above is the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). The NWAC’s goal is to promote and improve the well-being of indigenous populations through policy initiatives, advocacy and projects. Some of the projects are Project PEACE, that aims to advocate for community safety nets and financial literacy programs for women and ASETS (Aboriginal Skills and Employment Strategy), a program that helps women find jobs and gain educational skills.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Canada show that despite the fact that the country is considered to be one of the most developed in the world, there is still the unequal treatment of indigenous population and more should be done to resolve this question.

While these facts may look bleak, there are organizations that are working to improve indigenous livelihoods and reduce unjust inequalities.

– Isabella Niemeyer
Photo: Pixabay

Canadian Foreign Aid
People in the U.S. generally know little about their northern neighbor, Canada. Its parliamentary system, federal system and until recently, its leader remained unknown. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has changed that. The charismatic gentleman held the spotlight, at least for a time, in the press. However, many of his international supporters may find a surprise waiting for them across the border. According to the BBC, Canadian foreign aid spending is ranked last among its peers.

According to the CBC, a year after Prime Minister Trudeau took office in 2015, Canadian foreign aid shrank by 4.4 percent. Now, this could be attributed to the prior government. It is difficult to rearrange an entire government’s budget overnight; it is difficult to do it even in a year. For comparison, the 29 other members of the Development Assistance Committee, a part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, agreed to a minimum of 0.7 percent of a nation’s gross national income. Canada allocated 0.28 percent, or $3.9 billion. Unfortunately, in 2016, only six countries in OECD met their goal.

There is some hope for an increase in Canadian foreign aid in the future. According to Canadian Financial Minister Bill Morneau, Canada will add $2 billion to its foreign aid budget in 2018. This comes at a time when the prime minister has decided to adopt a feminist international assistance policy. Within the same five years that Canada will increase its foreign aid budget, it will also change and narrow its target. The prime minister set a goal that 95 percent of Canadian foreign aid will be aimed at gender equality. The money will be used to fund educational programs and charities in particular. This increase in funding is the largest in 16 years and has earned praise from charities throughout Canada and from U2 frontman and philanthropist Bono.

Private Sector Partnerships a Part of Canadian Foreign Aid

Nations around the world, especially the U.S. and the U.K., use private sector partnerships to boost economic development in certain areas. These are areas where the private sector partner can also turn a profit. These partnerships are controversial because of the unpredictable social, economic and environmental impacts they have on the local area and population. However, they have also had positive results in many communities.

In Burkina Faso, for example, the material wealth of the people working in the mines improved after Canadian company Iamgold partnered with the Canadian government to open the largest mine in West Africa. Housing was built, utilities improved and schools and medical centers were constructed. Due to Canada’s mining expertise (the country is home to more than 60 percent of the world’s mining companies), the government has decided to focus on mines. Prime Minister Trudeau intends to include these private sector partnerships in his new plan.

It seems that Canada’s new prime minister means well and wants to expand Canada’s positive global impact. It can take many years for a nation to adjust the course of its spending, and Canadian foreign aid is slowly heading in a positive direction. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used “Canada is back” as a slogan during his campaign in 2015. In 2018, Canada will begin its increase in foreign aid and its new feminist program. It will also host the G7 summit in June. This year is the year that Justin Trudeau can prove Canada is back.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr