Let's make it happen

Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

Whatever it takes, let's make it happen!

By Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair
True North Perspective

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more: www.albertevilleneuve.ca.

Image: Detail of photo of Alberte Villeuneuve-Sinclair

1 March 2015 — Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

  Image: Cartoon by Patrick LaMontagne. Click to visit his website.
  Cartoon by Patrick Lamontagne.

One of the themes of this year’s International Women’s Day is Make It Happen and the colour purple, which symbolizes justice and dignity, has been chosen for this year’s event.

Even in our modern society, gender equality is still something that needs to be worked on. Certain responsibilities are overwhelmingly left up to women in all societies. One of them is caring for children, the helpless, the sick, and the dying. I would like to pay homage to every woman who has embraced the role of caregiver during her life. Caregiving is not always something you choose; sometimes it is thrust upon you and it can change your life in a dramatic way.

I remember hearing about my maternal grandmother caring for her sister-in-law and this despite the fact that “Grand-mère” had ten children of her own. Clémentine, who was deaf and mute, was not an easy person to live with, sometimes throwing temper tantrums and hitting “Grand-mère”. There was no social system in place in those days, therefore elderly parents, handicapped siblings and children became the responsibility of family or relatives.

Despite the fact that today’s health care system offers many services for the sick, the mentally challenged, the handicapped, and the elderly, the ensuing caregiving still remains mostly women’s responsibility. They visit regularly, accompany the person during doctors’ and other appointments and special outings. They shop for clothes and basic necessities, bring special treats, do laundry . . .  and the list goes on.

This can have a major impact on women who already have a family, a home, a career, social responsibilities. Is it any wonder that some women experience burn-outs or feel depressed? And the sad thing is who takes over when they can no longer cope? Yet, women continue to take charge and they continue to advocate for change so that our world becomes a better place to live in.

Major change is always slow coming and takes years to finally become reality. Take, for instance, the right for physician-assisted dying for people who suffer unbearable pain, suffer from a serious degenerative disease or as the Supreme Court’s wording goes: “for patients who are grievous and irremediably ill”. Finally, the Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that mentally competent patients suffering grievously have the constitutional right to “equitable access to doctor-hastened death”. You may well remember the case of Sue Rodriguez, some twenty-one years ago when she asked to have medical assistance to end her life and was turned down by the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1994, as ALS ravaged her body, she decided to take her own life with the help of an anonymous doctor.

Since then, determined Canadians have taken their lives into their own hands to end their suffering, either by letting themselves die by refusing food and water or by travelling to a country, like Switzerland, where assisted end-of-life is authorized as was the case with Kay Carter.

Gloria Taylor who suffered from ALS also challenged the law. “What I fear is a death that negates, as opposed to concludes, my life. I do not want to die slowly, piece by piece.”

I really sympathize with the families and the caregivers of individuals who are suffering and know they will never get better – only worse. I witnessed the ravages of Alzheimers’ disease that turned my father, a proud farmer, into a helpless vegetable. In the days before he died, I saw him twice in an incredible dream where, dressed in a resplendent white shirt and dress pants, he stood on the grounds between the farmhouse and the stable and barn. He was healthy and sported a radiant smile. I have always wondered if he had an out-of-body experience on those two nights before he passed away.

Now, what are the chances that the Harper government will move on this? Government needs to move forward and make it happen. We probably need strong-willed women such as the respected, former senator, Cairine Wilson, a “federal” Kathleen Wynne or a Canadian version of Angela Merkel, or a different government that relates better to Canadians’ needs and desires.

Whatever it takes, let’s make it happen!

P.S. I just love Patrick Lamontagne’s editorial cartoons. If you care to see more, go to: www.cartoonink.com