Medicare's Histories

Origins, Omissions, and Opportunities in Canada

Esyllt W. Jones (Editor), James Hanley (Editor), Delia Gavrus (Editor)


Medicare is arguably Canada’s most valued social program. As federally-supported medicare enters its second half-century, Medicare’s Histories brings together leading social and health historians to reflect on the origins and evolution of medicare and the missed opportunities characterizing its past and present. Embedding medicare in the diverse constituencies that have given it existence and meaning, contributors inquire into the strengths and weaknesses of publicly insured health care and critically examine medicare’s unfinished role in achieving greater health equity for all people in Canada regardless of race, status, gender, class, age, and ability.

Fundamental to the stories told in Medicare’s Histories is the essential role played by communities—of activists, critics, health professionals, First Nations, patients, families, and survivors—in driving demands for health reform, in identifying particular omissions and inequities exacerbated or even created by medicare, and in responding to the realities of medicare for those who work in and rely on it. Contributors to this volume show how medicare has been shaped by politics (in the broadest sense of that word), identities, professional organizations, and social movements in Canada and abroad.

As COVID lays bare social inequities and the inadequacies of health care delivery and public health, this book shows what was excluded and what was—and is—possible in health care.


"Medicare’s Histories offers a superb and timely collection of essays on the critically important subject of Canadian medicare by some of the best scholars in the field."

Elsbeth Heaman, History and Classical Studies, McGill University

"Medicare’s Histories offers a superb and timely collection of essays on the critically important subject of Canadian medicare by some of the best scholars in the field."

Elsbeth Heaman, History and Classical Studies, McGill University

"This thought-provoking collection features a helpful introduction that situates the authors’ contributions in the existing literature."

Linda Kealey, Labour/Le Travail


Margaret McWilliams Book Award for Scholarly History, Manitoba Historical Society (2022)

About the Authors

Esyllt W. Jones is a history professor at University of Manitoba and is the author of the award-winning Influenza 1918: Death, Disease and Struggle in Winnipeg.

James Hanley is a Professor of History at the University of Winnipeg.

Delia Gavrus is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Winnipeg.

Other contributors: Catherine Carstairs, J.T.H. Connor, Megan J. Davies, Jacalyn Duffin, Erika Dyck, Aaron Goss, Geoffrey L. Hudson, Maureen Lux, Heather MacDougall, Mary Jane Logan McCallum, Kathryn McPherson, Sasha Mullally, Julien Prud’homme, Antoine Rossignol, Whitney Wood, David Wright

Table of Contents

Part 1: Origins and Alternative Visions
Ch 1: Did Medicare Make Nursing Work Invisible? Kathryn McPherson
Ch 2: “One Foot on Each Side of the Border” Dr. Frederick Dodge Mott, Rural Health, and “Socialized” Medical Care in the United States and Canada, 1930s-700s, J.T.H. Connor
Ch 3: What Was Socialized Medicine? Revisiting the Radical Prehistory of Medicare, Esyllt W. Jones and Aaron Goss

Part 2: Omissions: Equity and Access
Ch 4: Medicare versus Medicine Chest: Court Challenges and Treaty Rights to Health Care, Mary Jane Logan McCallum and Maureen Lux
Ch 5: Medicare and Maternity: Historicizing Inequities in Women’s Health, Whitney Wood
Ch 6: Mental Health and Medicare: Who Cares? Erika Dyck
Ch 7: Medicare in Canada from a Disability Rights Perspective: Ontario and Assistive Devices, circa 1975-90. Geoffrey L. Hudson
Ch 8: “Becoming Not a Stranger” Home Care for Rural Elders in the Age of Medicare, Megan J. Davies

Part 3: Professional Opportunities and Reactions
Ch 9: “Medicare Unfinished: Pharmacare and Denticare, Catherine Carstairs
Ch 10: From Health-Care Policy to Professional Politics: Medicare and Allied Health Professionals in Quebec, 1960-90, Julien Prud’homme and Antoine Rossignol
Ch 11: Chief Complaint: Physicial Discontent with Canadian Medicare, Jacalyn Duffin
Ch 12: Medicine in the Muskeg Metropolis: Doctors and Practices in a Canadian Resource Town, 1960-76, Sasha Mullally and David Wright
Ch 13: Challenging Medicare’s Dominance: New Paradigms in Health Promotion and Population Health, 1970-2018, Heather MacDougall