May 29, 2013

Impunity: On Slavery in Egypt and Policing in Toronto

A sermon by Doug Johnson Hatlem at Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church on February 24, 2013

When I first preached this sermon, former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner was on the loose, on a very high profile, cop killing, revenge tour in Southern California. He was angry, he wrote, because he had been fired for whistleblowing on a superior officer who kicked a homeless man.  I have had to revise the text below since many of us met for a walk on Friday.  I have had to accommodate yet another police beating in the Sanctuary community, a beating which left one of our dear friends with deep deep muscle bruises on his chest and a bruised lung.  The man was in St. Michael's hospital getting x-rays as we met in the basement at Sanctuary.

Our word for your hearing this morning is impunity. Or, to lengthen the subject matter slightly >>> Impunity: On Slavery in Egypt and Policing in Toronto.
Brian Hutchings, in the most recent case Doug is working on, needed eight staples to close up his head wound and had bruises and cuts all over his body (seen by Doug and captured in pictures). The blows were delivered during an attack after which Toronto Police lied to the media, stating that he had "totally overpowered" two officers.

In Exodus Six, just before the start, in earnest, of the ten plagues, we read of this tremendously painful exchange.  God tells Moses to tell the People of Israel “I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgement.”  Glorious. Right? Well, Moses goes and relays this message, but, verse nine, “they would not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery.”  Their broken spirit and their cruel slavery.  A message from God, but even yet, no hope is aroused.  The situation by this point is so dark, the oppression so heavy, the yolk beyond burdensome, that the People of Israel cannot even listen to a ringing call to freedom and redemption by way of the mighty acts of their God.

May 24, 2013

Public Dental Coverage in Other Provinces and Territories -- Part One: What's Available for Kids and Seniors

Written by Josie Newman

Similar to Ontario, the rest of Canada's provinces and territories have strengths and weaknesses in the public dental programs they offer.

Healthy Smiles Ontario, which provides general dental coverage to children of families with annual income up to $20,000, has counterparts in several other provinces. Interestingly, though, they all have a higher annual income cut-off for eligibility. This means there is definitely room for improvement in the Healthy Smiles Program.  

In New Brunswick, for example, the income cut-off for Healthy Smiles, Clear Vision is $22,020 for a two-person family all the way up to $41,196 for a seven-person family.

In British Columbia, Healthy Kids gives basic dental care to children under 19 from families which make less than $22,000. Low-income families who make more than the cut-off can still get assistance from Healthy Kids through BC's Medical Services Plan (MSP), but must pay premiums which are graduated to income.

In Saskatchewan, low-income kids get free dental coverage through Family Health Benefits -- the cut-off is income of $29,291 for one to three children up to $51,313 for 10 to 15 children, while in Alberta, the Child Health Benefit Plan offers free dental care to similar children who are 18 and under, or 20 and under if they still live with their families. The income cut-off in Alberta is $24,397 for a single parent with one child or $29,285 for a couple with one child up to $44,000 for a couple with four children.

Even better, though, is the free dental care for all children, regardless of family income, offered in the Yukon, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Newfoundland.  The ages covered varies by province, from 10 and under in Manitoba and Nova Scotia to 17 in some parts of the Yukon which means that every child with free coverage in these provinces has a fair shot at a healthy smile.  

In PEI, children three through 17 receive free coverage if their family's income is $30,000 or less; families with a higher income must kick in 20% of the costs.  

Unlike Ontario's lack of coverage for seniors, those over 65 in Alberta get dental assistance to a maximum of $5,000 over a five year period, as long as they are financially eligible -- the income cut-off for singles is $25,000 while it is $50,000 for a couple.

Prince Edward Island has a dental program for residents of long-term care facilities for preveHYPERLINK ""nHYPERLINK ""tative services only; fillings, extractions and dentures are paid for by the residents. YHYPERLINK ""ukon offers free dental care to a maximum of $1,400 every two years for all seniors regardless of income, while the Northwest Territories offers free dental care to non-native and Metis residents over 60 through its Extended Health Benefits program.

Nunavut offers public dental coverage to seniors through the Community Dental Health Services Research Unit of the University of Toronto which pays up to a maximum of $1,000 per year.

In Part Two, we'll examine what's offered to adults between 18 and 65 in Canada, to First Nations and other special groups, as well as look at some community programs in various provinces.     

May 17, 2013

Ontario's Publicly Funded Oral Health Programs: What's Covered and What's Not

written by Josie Newman

At approximately 13.5 million people, Ontario is the most populous province in Canada but it has the lowest per capita rate of funding for public dental programs. At just $5.67 per person annually, or 1.3% of the overall spending on dental care in the province, this pales in comparison to the average $19.54 per person spent nation-wide. That means the rest of the money spent on dental care comes either from employer-funded insurance or an individual’s own pockets.

For those who have enough money to pay out of pocket, this is not a problem. But, according to the experts, many of those who must pay out of pocket are those who can least afford it -- the working poor; that segment of Ontarians who earn between $15,000 and $30,000 annually, don't get benefits through their workplace, and are ineligible for public coverage. Middle-income seniors are badly hit too, because once they retire they usually have no coverage at all.

photo credit: 
 Most of Ontario's public programs are geared to children. Healthy Smiles, introduced in 2010, offers free preventive or routine dental coverage to children 17 and under, provided their family's adjusted net income is $20,000 or less.
This program is a case in point of the inadequacy of care offered to the working poor.   Many families who make more than $20,000 per year can barely afford food and shelter, let alone dental care, which suggests the income cut-off for this program should be higher. 
A second program offered to children in Ontario is the Children in Need of Treatment program (CINOT), which covers only emergency dental treatment, such as pain, infection, gingivitis, lesions, or trauma for children under 18 whose families have no other dental coverage.
Once accessed, CINOT coverage lasts for six months, when it must then be reviewed by the local health unit if further emergency care is required. 
There are also two programs serving a small portion of Ontario’s children with disabilities or craniofacial abnormalities: Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD),  and the Ontario Cleft Lip and Palate/Craniofacial Dental Program.   

When adults do not have access to preventative care, they
often end up needing far more expensive surgery to
repair the damage.
photo credit:
Low-income adults in Ontario do not fare nearly as well as children.  Adults on Ontario Works do receive dental care but it is only in emergency situations.  Their children, if they are under 18, are eligible for routine dental care including exams, x-rays, and uncomplicated fillings.

Adults on ODSP do receive routine dental care as do their spouses and dependent children under 18.  Coverage for more intense interventions is available but must be applied for on a case by case basis.
The end result of this hodge-podge approach to public dental care is a small but consistent proportion of the population with poor oral health, particularly people with disabilities, low-income families, seniors, and aboriginals, the very people the public programs are supposed to help.

For more information on the importance of preventative dental care please visit our previous blog post: What Happened to Our Government’s Commitment to Healthy Smiles?

May 14, 2013

Introducing Josie Newman - MCCO's New Policy Research Intern

We’d like to take a moment to introduce you to Josie Newman, Mennonite Central Committee Ontario’s Policy Research Intern.  Josie will be working with us for the summer conducting extensive research on the availability (or lack thereof) of extended health benefits in Ontario, including oral health, PharmaCare and vision care for people living on low incomes in Ontario.

Josie is a Master of Theological Studies student at Wycliffe College and is majoring in international development.  She has a special interest in community development and facilitating increased well-being for people who are marginalized in Ontario and beyond.

One of the major questions she will be asking is how Ontario stacks up to other provinces and Countries when it comes to extended health benefits—are we better than average?  Are we below average?  I bet you can’t wait to find out!

We are also interested in exposing the difference in coverage and ability to pay for people who have extended benefits through their work place and those who don’t.

Josie will be posting (semi) regular updates of her findings here on our blog, along with links to all of the information so you can gather more details if you wish.

Josie, we look forward to reading all about your findings in the coming months!  Good luck!