The capacity for compassion, the ability to see each other through, rather than to see through each other is perhaps the one thing that sets Canada apart from many other nations in the world. It is a culture of being there for one another – of lending a hand-up when times are rough, and of sharing in success when times are good. It is a culture of true leadership. For decades, compassion has shaped Canada’s public policy at all levels of government, municipal, provincial and federal. For decades, Canada has been a leader in health and social policy – Canada has demonstrated the power of compassion to overcome the most significant of challenges.
As such, as a Canadian – the move away from compassion as a core value, as a way of being, should be seen as being deeply disturbing. It should be seen as a move away from a culture that has enabled many great successes, towards a strategy of every man, woman and child for themselves, a strategy that will ultimately lead to a Canada that is far less than what it is capable of doing and being. The loss of compassion among Canadians, and particularly among those who are our leaders is nothing short of heartbreaking.
The underfunding of public systems of health and education, and an unwavering focus on the second dumbest idea ever – “Taxpayer Value”, is at its core a demonstration of a lack of compassion for others and in particular a lack of compassion for those who work in the public service and those who rely on the services it provides. High-quality, high-performing public health and public education systems need to be a priority and they need to be based on a compassionate view of those they employ and those they serve – they need to embody the hand-up that they are capable of being.
Is it compassionate to have wait times that effectively deny access to care in order to manage budgets and at the same time prohibit people from their own resources to expedite their care to mitigate the costs of their illness and or disability?
Is it compassionate to deny access to adequate compensation to those harmed by medical error?
Is it compassionate to have students who are the most in need of resources the least able to access the resources needed – is it compassionate to fund every student in every school district similarly, when the availability and effectiveness of PACs varies substantially?
Is it compassionate to treat the children of Canadian mothers and foreign fathers differently from the children of Canadian fathers and foreign mothers with respect to their access to healthcare?
A Canada without compassion, is a cold and heartless country – a country that turns its back on tremendous potential and as a result pays a huge opportunity cost. A Canada without compassion, will struggle – as those in their time of need are abandoned, and in turn, those previously abandoned turn their backs on the needs of others. A Canada without compassion will be unable to overcome the challenges it confronts – it will condemn some of its citizens to poverty, others to pain and disability. It will fail to enable and empower its citizens to contribute what they are capable of, in favour of ensuring that those who are lucky enough to avoid adversity will keep a little more money in their pockets.
Sadly, I feel that stories, like that of this Ottawa family – are about to be more common place, and sadder yet, the comments that follow it seem to reflect a loss of compassion among Canadians that is nothing short of heartbreaking.