Toronto greets Bernie with Standing Ovations

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            by Virginia Smith


Bernie Sanders’s late October speech at the University of Toronto advocating a single payer health care system in the U.S. was greeted enthusiastically by Democrats Abroad Toronto members. DA members gathered in two groups to respond to Sanders’s presentation – one group at Convocation Hall and one group at a nearby pub, where the event was watched on livestream.

Sanders’s Toronto weekend visit to Toronto included visits to three Toronto hospitals, where he discovered that it is not fair to say “that the system here is not a strong system and innovative system.” He said that the neonatal intensive care unit at Sinai’s health system was one facility that particularly impressed him. His speech about the necessity of health care for all was punctuated by standing ovations.

The DA members (who are officers of DA Canada and/or Toronto) who were able to attend the packed event were Christine Odunlami, Ed Ungar, Marnelle Dragila, Sue Alksnis, Carol Donahue, and Mari Rutka. The tickets were made available through DA Global to DA leaders and volunteers active in the DA health care stories campaign. Sue provided a petition calling on U.S. senators to cosponsor the Medicare for All Act brought forward by Sanders. Americans attending the event were invited to sign the petition, which was then sent to the national office of Health Care NOW.

These are a few of the responses to the speech by DA members in Convocation Hall:

Sue Alksnis: “When Dr. Danielle Martin of Women’s College Hospital asked how we will achieve the change we need, Bernie said the fight of this moment is to unify and take on the oligarchs. He said: ‘ I will tell you with 100% certainty there are people who are enormously powerful, with more wealth than you can dream of, who couldn’t care less about your lives, your children, about your parents. They want it all economically. They want it all politically. And we in the United States, in Canada, all over this world, we’ve got to stand together and tell these oligarchs that this planet belongs to all of us.’
….. Bernie also said the U.S. health care debate needs people in Canada and around the world to share their health care stories so that Americans cannot say that it isn’t possible to provide health care for all. Toward that end, DA has collected almost 400 health care stories from DA members. The stories are being printed in a book to be presented to Congress and Senator Sanders’s office. Stories can still be submitted at http://www.democratsabroad.org/healthcare_stories

Christine Odunlami: “Ever since Senator Sanders first put in his bid to run in the 2016 presidential election, to his current continuing activism, I knew something was indescribably extraordinary about him. Witnessing his speech solidified my expectations and more. It is my deepest hope that our fellow American citizens and politicians take full recognition of what Bernie’s speech communicates; single-payer healthcare is needed now. The passion and warmth displayed by Dr. Danielle Martin at Women’s College Hospital and at the other hospitals the senator toured show that patient-centred care as a human right is doable…”

Ed Ungar: “Every Senate term, Bernie introduces a single payer health care bill and, until this time, hardly anyone else signs on. But, this time, 16 of the most high profile Democratic senators are co-sponsors. The bill is basically modelled on Canada’s medical system. But as Ed Broadbent, former leader of the NDP, noted, Bernie’s bill improves on Canada’s system. Bernie thinks dental care, full psychological services, and dental services should be a basic right. If Bernie’s bill passes, and the odds are improving, then Canada may decide to catch up to the U.S. We shall see.”

DA members who watched the livestream at a nearby pub were greeted by Toronto Chapter Chair and Canada IT manager Julie Buchanan and Women’s Caucus Toronto Chair Karin Lippert, who worked as a team to set up the event.

Julie and Karin had these comments: “We're always happy to see our members at DemsAbroadTO events! We don't sponsor many brunches, but Brunch with Bernie at the Duke of York was a great opportunity to get together and hear his message on single payer health care. It was impressive that he had toured hospitals in Toronto the previous day and displayed detailed knowledge of the history of health care in both England and Canada. As Bernie said, change regarding health care came from ‘the bottom up’ in both countries. This has been true throughout history for change that benefits the general public. So it is up us to make sure we create the momentum and demand for single payer health care in U.S. elections going forward! The best moment of a Livestream event is when the tech works and we sign-up new volunteers. For those at the live event in Convocation Hall, Ed Ungar's sign summed-up what would be true for many of our members who benefit from Canadian health care: ‘ I'd be DEAD if I had stayed in the U.S.A.’"


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