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No dash to the finish line

A thick mist rose off the Lac des Trois Montagnes, blanketing the cabins surrounding this lake that is tucked into the Laurentian forests a couple of hours north of Montreal. Though only 3 a.m.

A thick mist rose off the Lac des Trois Montagnes, blanketing the cabins surrounding this lake that is tucked into the Laurentian forests a couple of hours north of Montreal. Though only 3 a.m., the lights of our chalet had come on. My wife’s 88-year-old mother was in crisis. A chronic stomach problem has worsened.

After some sleep-fogged deliberation, Eva wisely decided to call 9-1-1. The operator dispatched an ambulance as they continued to ask her questions about my mother-in-law’s condition. My daughter, Ilona, assisted with her Nagyi’s preparation for the hurried trip to the hospital. I walked up to the unmarked gravel road turn-off to direct the ambulance into our cul-de-sac.

On arrival, the calming, professional ambulance staff assessed the situation and prepared my mother-in-law for the 40-minute drive to the nearest hospital in Ste. Agathe des Monts. Eva rode with her mother in the ambulance. I followed behind in our car, driving in and out of mist banks.

At 5 a.m. a week ago Thursday, l’Hopital Laurentien staff began the process of diagnosing their new patient’s condition. It would take two days but they discovered a reoccurrence of cancer. My mother-in-law is a 30-year breast cancer survivor. The new cancer manifested itself on her outer stomach wall creating, they believe, the digestion problems.

Since then, family members from Montreal and Ottawa have shuttled back and forth to the hospital in Ste. Agathe des Monts to provide moral support as medical treatment options are explored. We have again witnessed our medical-care system in action. It is indeed working.

There are problems, of course. In a recent Montreal Gazette article, Mark Roper, director of the division of primary care at the McGill University Health Centre, reported an average wait of two years for residents of downtown Montreal in need of finding a family doctor. As noted in previous Just Society columns, the social determinants of health, such as poverty and poor housing, must also be recognized as root causes of rising health-care costs and dealt with.

However, on the whole, the Canadian medicare system, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its birth in Saskatchewan this summer, has become a hallmark of what we believe a caring society should do. How we treat our ill, as well as our elderly and our poor, gives real concrete testimony to the shared sense of the vision we have of our country and culture. This is always in evolution.

The campaign signs already abound as the provincial election here in Quebec enters its second week. One Parti Liberal du Quebec poster, hanging low off a lamp post caught my hat; they are everywhere. The PLQ along with the Parti Quebecois and the new Coalition Avenir Quebec dominate media electoral attention.

Campaign promises are sprouting like the abundant Quebec wild flowers at this time of year. The majority so far seem to be fairly bald attempts to ‘buy’ votes. How about $100 grants for school supplies or subsidies for workplace daycares? Analyzing the party platform positions and promises through the critical lens of how they can help build a just, sustainable and caring Quebec is serious task for the critical voter.

The health, not only the wealth, of our land depends on in the continued vibrancy of our democracy. This is a task which we all have to take seriously year round. The Quebec branch of my clan will likely be paying special attention to party health care pledges come the September vote.

Here’s hoping for my Anyoska’s speedy recovery. May she have at least several more, slow, enjoyable laps to go around old Sol’s course before she reaches her finishing line.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact

Namaste notes

Sunday, August 12 - Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is John 6:41-51.

Sunday, August 12 - International Youth Day 2012, theme is ‘Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth.’

Tuesday, August 14 - Lailat ul-Qadr, the Islamic Night of Destiny, recalls the first revelation of Qur’an to Prophet Mohammed.

Wednesday, August 15 - Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Roman Catholic Christian observance commemorating the belief that the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life.

Wednesday, August 15 - The Panama Canal formally opens in 1914. During the French and American construction phases an estimated 27,500 workers died