Sicko system core of the problem

Wisconsin’s Bayfield Peninsula sticks its rounded thumb out into Lake Superior more than 100 kilometres east of the tip of the lake at Duluth,…

Wisconsin’s Bayfield Peninsula sticks its rounded thumb out into Lake Superior more than 100 kilometres east of the tip of the lake at Duluth, Minnesota.

A 22-island archipelago sits just off to the north and east end of it.

Of “the Apostles,” the only permanently inhabited island today is called Madeline Island.

Aboriginal peoples found the peninsula’s shores and woodlands attractive as a seasonal stop in their annual round.

The Anishinaabe held sway in this boreal border land with the Sioux predominating in the dry oak savannah of Minnesota to their southwest and the Menominee to the southeast when the first Europeans arrived.

The French penetration of the heartland of the continent was well underway by the early 17th century. Local lore has Etienne Brule there by 1618.

A more substantially corroborated historical record sees Radisson and Groseilliers trading a couple of decades later followed closely by Jesuit missionaries.

Trading posts run by the French, then the North West Company and finally Astor’s American Fur Co. held sequential economic sway over Madeline Island until the 1840s.

Logging and fishing then provided the impetus for settlement for a couple of generations before the island settled into its present day tourist economy.

Wealthy families from Midwest states discovered this cool haven from urban heat and humidity in the 1890s.

Family estates line the more valuable lakeside properties.

The further from the water you are the more affordable the land becomes. Most experience the island, though, only as a day-trip destination.

A half-hour ferry ride to and from Bayfield, Wisconsin costs $20; a bike rental is $30 a day, according to my niece Mazie who works at the local rental shop.

The cool water and views of Lake Superior are free.

The tale I have learned of Madeline Island is a familiar one. Who pays? Who profits?

First the furbearing animals were trapped out then the people who came to rely on the trade found themselves marginalized without land or livelihood.

The timber and fishery and their resource dependent communities followed the same course as unsustainable harvests eroded their economic viability. Now seasonal, part-time, benefitless jobs dominate the local economy.

Throughout our 11-state swing we heard story after story from friends and kin alike of people being treated like disposable commodities.

The system here seems geared to generate profit, not build healthy, secure communities.

From a professor who just found out that his wife will be dropped from his university health-care policy after his retirement, to a nurse who realizes that she will be forced to stay at a physically demanding job long after her body has told her to stop because of her fear of losing medical coverage, the US health-care system epitomizes this malady.

A self-employed carpenter here on Madeline Island with a wife and two children knows they can’t get sick. They must pay $1,100 a month for a $5,000-deductible health insurance policy.

A senior citizen with the highest level of federal Medicare writes a monthly cheque for supplemental care equal to 20 per cent of her pension income.

A teacher in Chicago will work past her retirement date to keep a health plan until she qualifies for basic government assistance. The stories go on and on.

Absolutely everyone has one.

The central thesis of Michael Moore’s film  Sicko sets out that fear of losing the little, high-cost security that they do have keeps many people from demanding the alternatives that they know exist.

The powers that profit from the current status quo which sees tens of millions of American citizens left without any medical coverage at all certainly aren’t interested in change.

They share a direct ethical lineage with the robber barons of the 1800s and the corporate-monopolists of the 1900s who treated people, their communities and the environment as disposable resources for their personal plundering.

Campaign-dollar dependent politicians willingly act as their accomplices.

Our neighbours know better than to blindly accept a system like this. They just have to learn not to be afraid of demanding the needed changes.

As well, as witnesses to this sick tale we can’t allow our own system to fall prey to the siren call of greed and self interest.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Premier Sandy Silver speaks to media after delivering the budget in the legislature in Whitehorse on March 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Territorial budget predicts deficit of $12.7 million, reduced pandemic spending in 2021-2022

If recovery goes well, the territory could end up with a very small surplus.

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

Most Read