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Community Groups, Patients call for Apology from Health Minister

by James Hutt

Halifax, NS – Health workers, patients, social workers and community members held a press conference today to respond to recent controversial comments by Health Minister Leo Glavine. The press conference, organized by the Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network, called for an apology from the Minister.

The Minister published an opinion article in the King’s County Register on Feb 6. In it, Glavine wrote that health is an individual responsibility and suggested that those who do not eat well or exercise are abusing public health care.

“The Minister’s comments are not only misguided and offensive, but a sign of ignorance. He shows that he has no understanding of the social determinants of health.” said James Hutt, Provincial Coordinator of the Health Network. “If we really want people to lead healthier lives, we first need to make address inequality and make healthy choices accesible – but the Minister seems to be washing his hands of that.”

Speakers at the press conference told the audience that while exercising and eating well are important, what determines health are social factors like poverty, education, and housing. To improve the health of society, speakers said, health care must also address inequality and marginalization.  Many people are unable to afford nutritious food, or find time to cook if working multiple jobs.

“When I was a single mother on assistance, eating well and exercising was completely inaccessible” said Debbie Reimer, a registered social worker and executive director of the Kids Action Progam. “The Minister’s comments fuel a blaming mentality and are completely off the mark.”

“Living in poverty or being sick are not lifestyle choices.” Christine Saulnier, Nova Scotia Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, told the press conference. ‘I expect the Minister of Health to develop policy and programs, and make statements based on evidence. The Minister’s initial comments flew in the face of the evidence about what makes us sick and what keeps us healthy. The number one determinant of health is income and social status. If our government really wants people to lead healthier lives, all arms of the government must work together to remove the barriers of inequality.”

The Health Network followed up a press conference with a call to action. It urged supporters to call in to the Minister’s office and tweet at the Liberal Party using the hashtag #CallLeo to ask for help ‘breaking bad habits.’

“The Minister has said that Nova Scotians just need to make healthier choices and that people just need a little help to break those habits.” said Hutt. “So we’re calling the Minister and tweeting #CallLeo to ask for some help.”


For more information, contact:


James Hutt

Provincial Coordinator

Nova Scotia Citizen's Health Care Network

(Office) 406-9422

(Mobile) 222-1186



Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685dpenner@canadians.org  canadians.org/healthcare | Twitter:@CouncilOfCDNs


About the Nova Scotia Citizen's Health Care Network

Formed in 1996, the Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network’s goal is to stop the privatization of the public health care system, ensure high levels of care, and create a forum for people and communities to discuss issues in health care.

The Network is a coalition of local health committees, community groups, organized labour, faith groups, women’s organizations, students, and individuals dedicated to protecting and extending public health care to include services like pharmacare, dental care, long-term care, mental health care and home care.

The Network is political but non-partisan and receives no government funding.

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Topics: Health
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