GOOD NEWS ON THE HEALTH FRONT: Activists Hail Victories for Human Rights-And Human Health

By Ferrie, Helke | CCPA Monitor, December/January 2007 | Go to article overview

GOOD NEWS ON THE HEALTH FRONT: Activists Hail Victories for Human Rights-And Human Health


Ferrie, Helke, CCPA Monitor


"It is important to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then can evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated."

-Headmaster Dumbledore to Harry Potter.

There is so much bad news every day, especially about health and the environment, that it could put one in danger of "sinking beneath our anguish"-as Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, the famous school of magic, observes to his star student, Harry Potter.

It is often depressing to follow the news, for example, about corporations hell-bent on forcing genetically engineered foods down everybody's throats in an effort to control the world's food supply, or to watch the United Nations' Codex Committee's autocratic schemes to limit the availability and potency of nutritional supplements worldwide. The many victims of environmental illness suffering from Gulf War Syndrome, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, and asthma are the most likely to sink beneath their anguish as they endure the seemingly endless evasive tactics of governments, insurance companies, and many doctors.

But just when one becomes really morose, something tends to happen that surprises and refuels one's hope. This past summer, while Canadians temporarily took their customary breaks from the evils of the world at their cottages, the forces of justice were amazingly active. Let us savour the results! Four astonishing victories were achieved: by the Canadian Human Rights Commission on behalf of environmental illness victims; by the Alliance for Natural Health in the UK for health freedom and good science, thereby putting a spanner into Codex shenanigans; at the U.S. Patent Office which invalidated four of Monsanto's key patents for genetically engineered food plants; and in India, where a patent for a major cancer drug was denied to pharmaceutical giant Novartis, thereby creating a precedent which likely will benefit millions of the world's poor.

Over the years, the Human Rights Commission had heard many cases from Canadians seriously disabled by toxic chemicals who were denied accommodation or disability benefits simply because they had been diagnosed as suffering from environmental illness, a diagnosis that almost guarantees such rejection. This is strange when seen in the light of the fact that a Google check brings up almost 18 million hits for "environmental sensitivity" and more than two million specifically for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Furthermore, according to Statistics Canada, about 1.2 million Canadians (5% of the population) have been officially diagnosed with chemical sensitivity diseases, often to the point of disability. The Canadian Medical Association reported in August that the number of sufferers is closer to 27% of the population (one Canadian in 4), because asthma should also be included.

In 1999, Senator Charles Caccia, who headed the Senate Standing Committee on Health that eventually brought us the long overdue new national pesticide legislation, was the first to make the key recommendation that MCS be given recognition and be covered by Medicare. Nothing happened. In 2002, Senator Sparrow became aware of the cruel neglect and bias suffered by such patients in spite of numerous court decisions in their favour, and he asked then Minister of Human Resources Jane Stewart to become pro-active on the pension and accommodation issues.

I was among those invited by her and departmental officials to start the process of formulating new legislative and policy guidelines for this purpose. I wrote a report for the Minister on MCS (see sources). However, my experience with government made me doubtful that anything would come off this nice trip to Ottawa and those friendly chats with Human Resources officials. Sure enough, when the contract arrived, the selected team of doctors and I (who was to do the writing) saw that the fine print expected us to guarantee that our report would never be communicated to the media, and that this entire exercise would have to remain confidential government property. …

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GOOD NEWS ON THE HEALTH FRONT: Activists Hail Victories for Human Rights-And Human Health
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