Montréal, le 25 avril 1998
Numéro 8

Un regard libertarien
sur l'actualité québécoise et nord-américaine
numéros précédents 
  Publié tous les samedis 
« Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood » 
by Ralph Maddocks 
Page 2 
Les mégabanques  
et la compétition 
par Martin Masse  
Page 3 
Les Chroniques de Cybérie, l'État pusher de livres, libre-échange en Amérique et Jean Charest perd son auréole 
Page 4 
Touche pas à ma pompe 
par Pierre Desrochers 

Page 5 
Antisyndicalisme 101 
par Brigitte Pellerin 
Page 6 
Les magouilles  
de la CSST 
Séparatisme vs 
Page 7 
au petit Tremblay, à la Fédération canadienne de l'entreprise indépendante et à un syndicaliste du secteur bancaire  
Des docteurs sortis de la RAMQ 

by Ralph Maddocks
          That line in one of my favourite poems, Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard put me in mind of last month's events in Ottawa. The proclamation by the Federal Minister of Health of an agreement with the Provincial Ministers of Health to ignore the claims of half of the hepatitis C victims, some 30,000 people, must rank as possibly one of the most cynical announcements ever to emanate from that place. At least until our Prime Minister, who thinks that Canada is the best country in the world, refused a free vote on the matter in the House of Commons. (The vote is set to take place in the coming week). They did announce a $1.1 billion package for the other half, paid for by the taxpayers of course, although details were somewhat sketchy. 
          It seems that hemophiliacs, who use a variety of blood products, will all be compensated. However, unlike the AIDS victims who receive assistance on an annual basis, the victims of hepatitis C will get an initial lump sum payment and unspecified future payments if they become very ill. The quid pro quo is that they must agree not to sue the government. 
          Recently identified, hepatitis C is a blood borne virus which can incubate in a victim for up to 30 years and for which there is no known cure or vaccine. About half of the victims will be able to live more or less normal lives; except for not knowing whether they are in the fortunate half or not. Not knowing if you will be one of the « lucky » victims is little compensation. Imagine wondering for the next three decades or so if, or when, you will begin to experience the symptoms of cancer or cirrhosis of the liver and exit this world having suffered a ghastly and appalling death. Of the other half who have been infected some three fifths of them will experience some symptoms varying from mild discomfort to serious chronic fatigue. The remaining two fifths will die one or other of the unpleasant deaths mentioned above. 
          Spokespersons for the governments, appearing on television talk shows, have suggested deviously that if you have prostate or breast cancer the government is not expected to compensate you. Such sophistry by government apologists is reaching levels of refinement hitherto unknown. On the face of it they are of course right, except that as usual they are answering the wrong question.   
How to prove negligence? 
          These unfortunate people should be compensated because the government was supposed to be controlling the process which gave them hepatitis C in the first place. If the blood was being tested by a private company, as it ought to be, then there would be lawsuits against the company and the individuals responsible within that company. Why should the government and its officials not be personally liable?  Why should the taxpayers shoulder the burden for the incompetence of government? 
          In 1986 there was a reliable screening test for hepatitis C, but it wasn't employed until four years later. Those who received blood or blood products during this period should be able to prove negligence on the part of those who were supposed to be testing it. Their relatives may also have a claim if they in turn become infected. The 30,000 people who are left out of the compensation package claim that they became infected before 1986 and should be treated like those in the 1986 to 1990 period. The problem they face, which the government is exploiting, is how to prove negligence. How can they prove that the system knowingly exposed them to the infection? Given the available evidence, this may well prove difficult if not impossible.                
           The larger issue is, of course, this question of responsibility. Our politicians seem to be saying different things at different times. The B.C. premier said he didn't feel « comfortable » with the deal which his own Health Minister had just signed. Quebec talked initially about compensating everyone but so far has made no clear commitment. As time elapses, and as press interest in the matter diminishes, the rest of us, except for the unfortunate 30,000 victims, will conveniently forget the entire matter. 
Lots of inquiries, no one responsable 
          Canada has experienced numerous scandals recently, from overfishing in the Atlantic region through the Somalia affair, Ontario's nuclear power fiasco and the Krever Inquiry with the unfortunate results related above. None of these inquiries satisfy the genuinely aggrieved.  Even when some people are named, it is invariably some poor defenceless low level individual. 
          There is an obvious lack of compatibility between truth and justice, which explains the feelings of betrayal experienced by the victims. These official inquiries are lengthy, being obstructed by battalions of lawyers each eager to defend his or her particular client. Whenever the government senses that the truth will emerge and that someone may be named as being responsible they shut the inquiry down, as in the Somalia case. The Krever Inquiry took ages because of lengthy legal battles in the courts, battles fought probably at the taxpayer's expense, with the express purpose of avoiding responsibility. 
          We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms which was thought to be a shield between a large and oppressive government and the simple citizen. It has become a shield all right; a shield for the privileged few. Today's Canadian public life is characterized largely by a scarcity of truth and a total absence of accountability. 
           You can substitute the name of the politician of your choice for that of Cromwell. 
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