Recently, I participated in a pharmacare town hall in Hamilton, Ontario—one of 25 being held across the country—to discuss the implementation of a single-payer drug program that would ensure access to universal, comprehensive, evidenced-based and sustainable coverage for all Canadians. Components of the plan are currently being deliberated by a federal advisory council. As the director of health policy and evaluation for Black Health Alliance, and an engaged citizen, I felt it was important to attend and contribute to this discussion.
During the question-and-answer session, I referred to a slide in the presentation which noted several groups that are most impacted by gaps in drug coverage, including women, Indigenous communities, racialized communities and those of lower socioeconomic or health status. I asked why the panel, which was composed of mostly middle-aged white men, did not reflect these communities.
I was taken aback by the response I received from one of the panellists. Dr. Gordon Guyatt, a renowned professor and physician at McMaster University said: “I’m grateful to be up here instead of an Indigenous woman.” A smattering of laughter ensued from the predominantly white audience. When asked to clarify what he meant, Guyatt attempted to deflect the impact of his statement by claiming it was a “poor joke.” It may be hard to believe this actually happened, but you can view a recording of the exchange here.