Politics: The Art of the Possible

Politics: The Art of the Possible

Lean to the left, lean to the right

Political tendencies in our provincial politics

The history of Saskatchewan politics has been like a tri-colour rainbow – with conservative, socialist and centrist hues.

But lesser-known parties in provincial politics have included Farmer-Labour, Liberal-Labour, Unity, Provincial Rights Party, Conservative Liberal. Conservative, Social Credit, Independent Liberal, and Independent Pro-government, each with their own political leanings.

From 1905 until 1944 the Liberals ran the show, except for Conservative premier James T.M Anderson’s administration, 1929-34. During this period a predominant contingent of immigrants from outside this province consisted of Liberal Farmers from Ontario.

From 1944 when Tommy Douglas took over, the CCF/NDP were at the helm until 1961. The socialist “tendency” came from a new wave of urban, working class immigrants from Britain tending toward socialism.

Liberal Ross Thatcher was premier 1964 to 1982. After that the Liberal party was never given the reins again.

After 1980, NDP support tended to come from our cities.

Since 1982, power has swung back and forth between socialists and conservatives, if you consider the Saskatchewan Party conservative. In 2007 four Tories and four Liberals joined to form the Saskatchewan Party, supposedly to present a united front against the NDP.

From 1999 to 2003, the Romanow and Calvert governments benefitted from a coalition with the Liberals.

[“The Patterns of Prairie Politics” by Nelson Wiseman, in The Prairie West: Historical Readings; Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan]

A mouse that roared?

Our voice in parliament

Usually there are fourteen MPS representing Saskatchewan in Parliament.

The number of Saskatchewan MPs in Parliament is minuscule because of our relatively tiny population, but our collective voice often thundered, thanks to many Saskatchewan cabinet ministers and a couple of prime ministers.

Federal cabinet ministers have included Otto Lang, James G. Gardiner, Lloyd Axworthy, Ray Hnatyshyn, Ralph Goodale, and James Moore, to name a few.

John Diefenbaker and Mackenzie King, both prime ministers, have represented Saskatchewan ridings.

Federally, the conservatives swept the province in the 2019 election, as in Alberta. Some say that sweep reflected western economic uncertainties.

[pm.gc.ca/en/cabinet; Norman Ward, Saskatchewan entry in Hurtig’s Canadian Encyclopedia.] 

Follow the leader

Some well-known male politicians in Parliament

Lloyd Axworthy: First elected to Parliament in 1979, he served in the cabinets of three Liberal prime ministers. Born in North Battleford, he earned a PhD and was president of the University of Winnipeg for ten years. Honours he received are legion.  

Major James William Coldwell (“M.J.”) was a founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (later the NDP).  In 1932, he was chosen to lead the new Saskatchewan Farmer-Labour Party (later part of the CCF). Later he was MP for Rosetown-Biggar.

Potrait of T.C. douglas
Thomas Clement Douglas, once voted our top Canadian, is considered to be one of the two Fathers of Medicare. Photo from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas of Weyburn was one of the primary movers and shakers behind socialized medicine, and he introduced many other social programs emulated in other provinces. In 2004 he was voted the “Greatest Canadian.”

illustration of John Diefenbaker
Illustration by Ruth Millar

John George Diefenbaker of Prince Albert and Saskatoon, Progressive Conservative Prime Minister of Canada, U of S alumnus and later chancellor of the university, was the only prime minister of Canada who was really from this province.

James G. Gardiner was not only our premier in the 1920s and 1930s, but served as federal minister of agriculture 1935-7 and minister of national war services 1940-41. The Gardiner Dam was named after him.

Ralph Goodale was long a prominent spokesperson for Saskatchewan. In Ottawa he served as Minister of Public Safety, Minister of Finance, and he led the Saskatchewan Liberal Party 1981 to 1988. His defeat in the 2019 electoral sweep of Saskatchewan and Alberta was mourned by many across the political spectrum.

Ray Hantyshyn
Ray Hnatyshyn. Photo from University of Saskatchewan Archives & Special Collections

Ramon Hnatyshyn of Saskatoon was Canada’s first Ukrainian governor general, serving 1989 to 1995. A lawyer, he was elected to Parliament in 1974, became a cabinet minister and also served as Chancellor of Carleton University.

Otto Lang, Rhodes scholar and former dean of law at the U of S, became a prominent cabinet minister in Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government, holding a raft of key positions including Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

Charles Mayer, U of S alumnus, served as a Member of Parliament for fifteen years and for nine years served as a cabinet minister in various ministries.  He is best known for his service to the agricultural industry.

James A. Moore, a U of S grad (masters in political studies), was Minister of Industry in the Harper government, representing a B.C. riding.

Andrew Scheer, currently leader of the Conservative Party and the Official Opposition in Ottawa, was the youngest Speaker to be appointed in Parliament. Born in Ottawa, he finished his BA at the University of Regina, and was first elected MP for that riding in 2004.

Women leaders too

Some female politicians on the national scene

Although nowadays many women grace the House of Commons and the Senate, the path to national status was blazed by women such as these:

Raynell Andreychuk, born in Saskatoon and U of S grad, has been a lawyer and a judge, and in 1993 became the first Saskatchewan woman to be appointed a senator. She also served as high commissioner to Kenya and Uganda, and ambassador to Somalia and Portugal.

Carol Skelton of Biggar joined the federal cabinet on February 6, 2006, thus becoming the first female federal cabinet minister from Saskatchewan.

Lillian Dyck, born in North Battleford, was the first female senator of First Nations descent and first Canadian-born Chinese senator. Holding a PhD in biological psychiatry, she is on the U of S faculty, and is a renowned advocate for equal rights for women

Marion Adams Macpherson, born in Moose Jaw and a U of S alumna, served four decades in the Canadian foreign service, first in Washington D.C., then Ghana, New York City, and Sri Lanka. She was Canadian ambassador to Denmark and High Commissioner to Zambia.

Pana Merchant of Prince Albert, U of S and U of R grad, was a teacher and businesswoman. who became a senator in 2002 and retired in 2017. 

The first female MP from Saskatchewan was Dorise Nielsen of the Unity Party (communist) and labour-progressive, who represented North Battleford from 1940 to 1945.

Jeanne Sauvé was one of Saskatchewan’s most illustrious citizens. She was born in Prud’homme, educated in Ottawa and Paris, worked as a journalist for the CBC, and was elected to the House of Commons in 1972. She served as a cabinet minister, Speaker of the House and finally as Canada’s first female Governor General, 1980 to 1984.

Another early female MP was Gladys Strum, a farm woman from Windthorst. A U of S grad, she represented Qu’Appelle from 1945–1949, and was the first female president of the CCF — and the first woman to head a Canadian political party. 

Pamela Wallin (OC, SOM) of Wadena has been a social worker, diplomat, entrepreneur, author, print and radio journalist, TV anchor, and a senator. She was instrumental in setting up the U of S Women’s Centre.

[Canadian Encyclopedia; famouscanadianwomen.com, Who’s Who in Canada, personal websites]

Ladies first

Female trailblazers in provincial politics

There have been at least twenty-three female cabinet ministers in Saskatchewan, but we have never had a female premier. Still, an Alberta premier studied here.

First Ukrainian woman elected to a provincial legislature was Mary Batten, née Fodchuk, educated at Calder, Ituna, Regina and at the U of S. She was a lawyer and judge, and articled with John Diefenbaker

Joan Duncan and Patricia Anne Smith became the first female cabinet members in Saskatchewan, in 1982.

Sylvia Fedoruk, mentioned elsewhere, became Saskatchewan’s first female lieutenant-governor in 1988. she was also a curling star, and a science giant.

In 1989 MLA Lynda Haverstock was the first woman to lead a political party in our province, as head of the Liberals. Later she became our lieutenant governor.

Rita Margaret Johnston was born in Melville. In British Columbia she became a city councillor, an MLA, a cabinet minister, deputy premier, and briefly Canada’s first woman premier, leading the Social Credit Party after the BC premier resigned in 1991.

Pearl McGonigal was born in Melville. She became a Winnipeg city councilor, deputy mayor, and then in 1981 the first female lieutenant governor of Manitoba. She was inducted into the Order of Canada in 1984 and the Order of Manitoba in 2000.

Florence McOrmond, community organizer, relief worker and women’s advocate in the then town of Sutherland (now a suburb of Saskatoon) was Saskatchewan’s first female mayor.

Sarah Ramsland, our first female MLA, took over her husband’s constituency in Pelly after he died of the deadly Spanish influenza, and then won the seat in her own right.

Alison Redford, fourteenth premier of Alberta, graduated from the College of Law at the U of S. She was awarded the Jubilee Medal.

Votes for women!

Movers and shakers

Women got the vote in municipal and provincial elections in 1916. In 1917 limited female franchise was enacted federally, and expanded in 1918 to include most women. Asians were excluded until after World War II. Not until 1960 could Indigenous people on reserves vote.

Nicholas Flood Davin, Regina publisher, journalist and MP, was an unlikely feminist, but in 1895 he rose in Parliament to propose the franchise for women. On 8 May 1895, he was quoted: “… the privilege of voting for candidates for membership should be extended to women possessing the qualifications which now entitle men to the electoral franchise.”

Journalist Violet McNaughton of Harris, founder and president of the Women Grain Growers Association (WGGA), also founded the provincial Equal Franchise Board in 1915.  It united the WGGA, the WCTU and the regional Political Equality Leagues in a campaign for federal female suffrage after the war.

Journalist Frances Marion Beynon (with her sister Lillian Beynon Thomas) campaigned in print for readers to write to Premier Scott calling for women’s suffrage.

Alice Lawton of Yorkton, first president of the EFB, led a delegation to meet with Premier Scott in 1916 to present a petition of 10,000 signatures clamoring for the provincial franchise for women. A month later they won the provincial vote.

Zoe Haight of Keeler worked with Violet McNaughton on the WGGA executive.

Isabel Cleveland of Saskatoon wowed the audience at a Liberal convention in Moose Jaw in 1917 with her stirring speech advocating the franchise for women in federal elections. 

Erma Stocking of Perdue was active in the WGGA and wrote newspaper columns on women’s issues, including suffrage, in the grain growers’ newspaper.  She was also a strong advocate for rural libraries.

Annie Hollis from Shaunavon, promoted the WGGA’s ideals, which included votes for women.

[Davin: House of Commons Debates, 1895, vol. 1, c. 701; others: women’s suffrage exhibit, Western Development Museum, Saskatoon, fall 2018; Saskatchewan History fall 1994, 6]


What premiers did before they became premiers

Scott Moe, Shellbrook, 2018: Sask Party; public administrator, economic development, physician

Brad Wall, Swift Current: 2007-2018; Sask Party; public administrator, economic development

Lorne Calvert, Moose Jaw: 2001-2007; NDP: United Church minister

Roy Romanow as young man.
Roy Romanow as a young man, Photo QC-1678-1-B, ca. 1960 by CFQC staff, from Local History Room,
Saskatoon Public Library.

Roy Romanow, Saskatoon: 1991-2001: NDP: radio announcer, lawyer, partner in private firm, law professor. He was president of the U of S Student Union in the 1960s.

Grant Devine, Saskatoon: 1982-1991; PC: agriculture professor, U of S.

Allan Blakeney, Regina: 1971-1982; NDP: civil servant, Saskatchewan government, law professor, U of S.

Ross Thatcher, Moose Jaw: 1964-1971: Liberal: hardware store businessman.

Woodrow Lloyd, Biggar: 1961-1964; NDP: school principal, Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president.

T.C “Tommy” Douglas, Weyburn: 1944-1961; NDP: Baptist church minister

William J. Patterson, Windhorst: 1935-1944; Liberal: businessman, finance and insurance agency

J.G. “Jimmy” Gardiner, Lemberg: 1934-35, 1926-1929; Liberal: farmer, school principal

J.T.M. Anderson, Regina: 1929-1934:  Con./Prog: director of education, Regina Public Schools

Charles Dunning, Regina: 1922-1926; Liberal: business executive, Sask. Co-op elevator company

William M. Martin, Regina: 1916-1922; Liberal: politician, lawyer, federal M.P.

Walter Scott, Regina: 1905-1916: businessman, publisher of Regina Leader-Post

Medical Care – Health Matters!

Medical Care – Health Matters!

The history of medical care began with early doctors who faced many challenges in serving the sick. Nurses played a vital role too. But perhaps the most important story for Canadian citizens is the Medicare saga which began in our province. We touch on determined individuals who played key roles in that history, the most famous being Tommy Douglas and Emmett Hall.

Indomitable early doctors

Forging a path in health care

Most Saskatchewan communities had pioneering doctors who are still revered for their fortitude and tenacity in reaching far-flung patients. Here are some stories of doctors who played adventurous roles in our past.

Dr. James Hector, medical doctor and naturalist, accompanied the Palliser Expedition in the fall of 1847 to figure out which lands in the Canadian interior could be used for agriculture. Then he stayed behind when Captain Palliser went east, and continued exploring the prairies on his own.

NWMP doctor Dr. Augustus Jukes was sent in 1882 to report on conditions in native camps in the Cypress Hills. He found children in rags, and thousands of destitute people starving, subsisting on dogs. With no buffalo hides for tepees, most were shivering in cotton tents. Despite his scathing criticism of government agents using starvation to force these families on to northerly reserves, they only meted out already-promised annuities.

Surgeon Major James Bell during the Northwest Resistance was commander of medical personnel at the field hospital in Saskatoon where five doctors, six “dressers,” and an orderly laboured to save lives of wounded soldiers.

Dr. Thomas Roddick was Deputy Surgeon General in 1885, tending wounded at the field hospital in Saskatoon. After hostilities ended and his patients were sent home, he stayed behind to minister to Metis wounded at Fish Creek and Batoche. He left them cash and medical supplies, and instructions to NWMP doctors for further care.

Dr. Robert G. Ferguson, superintendent of the Saskatchewan Anti-Tuberculosis League, achieved many firsts for the province, including free TB treatment, vaccination programs for “San” workers and indigenous people, and TB surveys.

Dr. Archibald Kitely of Nipawin was renowned in the 1920s for sewing a severed finger (plus two dangling fingers) back onto the hand of a three-year-old boy who had been playing with a hatchet. Dr. Kitely reportedly was pursued by wolves as he traversed the wilderness to reach patients at distant sites.

Dr. Elizabeth Matheson, “one of Canada’s first women doctors”, practised medicine from 1898 to 1918 at Onion Lake, where she and hubby John Matheson set up a mission and hospital for the Cree. At John’s urging, despite being pregnant and already a mother of two she returned East to finish the medical degree she had started earlier.

Dr. William McKay standing in row of early Saskatoon citizens.
Dr. William McKay, feisty early Medical Health
Officer (second from right) on 20th Street East
in Saskatoon in 1903. Photo LH 1493-c,
from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library.

Dr. William John McKay, a feisty medical health officer in Saskatoon, was horrified by typhoid outbreaks caused by contaminated water every summer from 1907 to 1912. He argued that slop disposal methods were – well – sloppy, and the nuisance grounds were a public health hazard. He insisted they be moved further from the city, and railed against outdoor privies, shallow wells, and unsanitary restaurants. McKay drafted bylaws that set a lofty standard in public health, He was listed in the 1911 Who’s Who in Canada.

Dr. Alfred Shadd was probably Saskatchewan’s first African-Canadian physician. He had started medical studies in Ontario before coming to the Carrot River area as a teacher in 1896, After helping a severely injured man there, he returned east to finish his M.D. Graduating with honours, he returned and set up a practice in Kinistino. Following post-graduate studies in Europe in 1907, he moved his practice to Melfort, bought a pharmacy, a prosperous farm and a newspaper, and became an alderman.

A Dr. Walsh, aka Muski-kewe-yinew (medicine man) travelled by canoe in 1919 with a party of fourteen to the far north of Saskatchewan, distributing treaty funds to First Nations people. Accompanying Treaty Commissioner William McKay, Walsh set up his own tent to tend to the medical needs of the native people.

[Bell: Sessional Papers no. 6A,49 Vict., 1886, cited in Tolton, Prairie Warships, 133. Hector: Friesen, Where the River Runs, 219-227; Blaine Lake history, 7-8. Jukes: Letter, Jukes to White. 7 October 1882.  Kitely: assisted by Sharon Butala; Nipawin community history; Matheson: Buck: The Doctor Rode Side-Saddle. McKay: Western People 25 November 1999. Roddick: Ballantine, Saskatchewan History spring 1964. Shadd: Saskatchewan History vol 30 no. 2 (1977): 41-55.]

Milestones in Saskatchewan health care

Medicare owes its origins to the political and cultural will of Saskatchewan people who pioneered several innovations in health policy. Here we note some other health-related milestones that helped pave the way and distinguish the province as Canada’s conscience in healthcare. But, the journey was not an inevitable one. As of 1905, medical care in Saskatchewan was typically provided by individual doctors residing in smaller communities.

Paid doctors:  In 1916 Dr. Schmitt of Holdfast became the first doctor paid an annual salary, organized through the municipal doctor plan in the RM of Sarnia. Paying doctors a salary rather than a fee-for-service became one of the most contentious issues in the struggle for Medicare, ultimately erupting in the world’s longest doctors’ strike, when Saskatchewan doctors withdrew their services for twenty-three days on the eve of Medicare’s implementation in 1962.

Community clinics: In 1962, socialist-minded physicians, who supported the government and opposed the doctors who went on strike, formed a working group to create an alternative to fee-for-service, hospital-based medical care.  Combining the need for prevention with family practice, community clinics remain a critical primary care service and are a reminder of the importance of prevention and education as key elements of our healthcare system. 

Tuberculosis: Indigenous deaths from TB were ten times higher than non-indigenous rates in the first half of the 20th century.  Dr. Robert G. Ferguson, working at the TB Sanatorium at Fort Qu’appelle, introduced the first controlled trial of a TB vaccine (BCG), which relied on experiments on Indigenous children.  The trial proved successful, if controversial.

Mental health: In 1921 Saskatchewan allegedly built the last Victorian asylum in the western world: the Saskatchewan Mental Hospital, Weyburn.  Forty years later ours was the first province in Canada to aggressively reject the long-term confinement of people with mental illnesses or intellectual disabilities, and provincial reformers took a leading role in developing a new system of care: care in the community.

Cancer: In 1931 Saskatchewan introduced the first cancer registry in the nation; this systematized accounting helped to improve early detection and bolstered research that led to major technological innovations, including the cobalt-60, the betatron, and much later, the synchrotron, all of which made Saskatchewan a leader in radiation physics and cancer care services.

Medical education: In 1952 the University of Saskatchewan introduced a full program of medical education, allowing local students the opportunity to complete their training in the province.  This move coincided with the opening of the University Hospital, fulfilling international recommendations that academic medical education occur in tandem with laboratory research and bedside observation.

Spiritual care: In 1954 Plains Cree people established the first (and only) Canadian branch of the Native American Church.  This organization provided spiritual guidance and post-colonial healing through prayer, worship, and the use of peyote (mescaline).

Hospitalization: Drafting the blueprints for a publicly funded healthcare system, Saskatchewan communities pooled their resources to retain physicians, maintain local hospitals, and invest in medical and nursing education programs.  The results of investing in communities paid off:  in 1947 the province passed the Hospitalization Act – the first of its kind, covering the costs of in-hospital care for all provincial residents. 

Medicare: A decade later the Medical Care Services Act (1957) expanded the coverage to services outside of hospitals, excluding pharmacare.  In 1984 the Canada Health Act recognized the culmination of these policies at the national level; all other provinces and territories had followed suit and established their own publicly funded systems of healthcare.

Dental care: Building on its health care promises, in 1978 Saskatchewan introduced the children’s dental service in, what later amounted to a short-term attempt, to bring more health services under the public umbrella.  Recognizing that preventing illness is much less costly than restoring health, dental care became an important area for expanding healthcare services in the community. 

[Erika Dyck, U of S professor & health historian; Canada Research Chair, History of Medicine]

Medicare super-heroes

Leaders in the fight for Medicare

What we know as “Medicare” was made possible by a succession of individuals and groups determined to institute a system of publicly-funded medical care in Saskatchewan. They weathered heated conflict between doctors and government, and a tumultuous doctors’ strike.

Dr. Maurice Seymour served in the 1885 Resistance, practised in the Qu’Appelle Valley, then headed the provincial department in charge of public health. He pushed for public funding of hospitals and physicians, made important contributions to public health, hired Dr. R.G. Ferguson for the tuberculosis program, and dealt with outbreaks of the Spanish flu and other serious infectious diseases.

Bold Experiment book cover
Matt Anderson was significant in the Medicare saga. This book is his take on it.

Norwegian immigrant Mathew (Mathias) S. Anderson could be called the grandfather of Medicare. Starting in 1927, he pushed repeatedly at rural municipality conventions for publicly-funded medical care and hospital insurance. The Matt Anderson Plan, passed as an Order-in-Council in 1939, allowed municipalities to impose taxes for health services. Several did. It cost individuals $5 a year.

Rural Saskatoon resident Diana Wright, after hearing renowned Swiss medical historian Dr. Henry E. Sigerist lecture at Queen’s University on the topic of tax-funded health services for the poor, arranged for him to meet CCF leader T.C. Douglas and CCF MPs from Saskatchewan in 1943.

Dr. Henry Sigerist was a towering figure in the march toward Medicare. He agreed to come to our province if the CCF won the next election, and they did. Sigerist came to Regina for three months, then prepared a report containing advice that would later be implemented in the provincial Medicare scheme.

Thomas Clement Douglas, once voted Canada’s top Canadian, is revered as one of the two “Fathers of Medicare.” Photo QC-1463-3 by CFQC staff
ca. 1961, from Local History Room,
Saskatoon Public Library

Thomas C. (Tommy) Douglas, a former Baptist minister, was horrified by the expense of health care in the harrowing 1930s, care not available to the poor. He pioneered Saskatchewan’s 1947 hospitalization plan, our country’s first, emulated across Canada by 1958, and became a seminal figure in the genesis of Medicare. He oversaw the adoption of the Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act on November 17, 1961, before resigning to lead the new federal NDP party.  

W.G (Bill) Davies, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Health at the time, countered a resulting doctor’s strike by bringing in pro-Medicare doctors from Britain.

Succeeding Premier W.S. Lloyd saw Medicare put into effect on July 1, 1962. it was the first government-funded, comprehensive and universal medical insurance plan in North America.  It was born in a maelstrom of controversy and a doctors’ strike, but within ten years all Canadians benefited from Medicare.  

Dr.  Sam Wolfe was a mover and shaker in setting up Saskatoon’s community clinic. He co-authored the definitive 1967 book, Doctor’s Strike: Medical Care and Conflict in Saskatchewan.

Dr. Orville K. Hjertaas was a key figure in setting up a community clinic in Prince Albert.

Ed Mahood was the first chair of the Saskatoon Community Clinic board, which started the first “interdisciplinary community medicine” in Saskatchewan.

Saskatoon’s Citizens in Defense of Medicare called for citizens to demonstrate their support for Medicare.

Stan Rands, executive secretary of the Community Health Services Association (CHSA), wrote Privilege and Policy: A History of Community Clinics in Saskatchewan.

Dr. Frank Coburn, a professor of psychiatric medicine, played a strong role in the fight for Medicare, and helped set up community clinics.

Bill Harding, founding president of CHSA, chaired the Regina clinic board from 1962-65. With Rands, he helped establish thirty-five clinics in Saskatchewan.

Roy Atkinson was a CHSA founder and its second president.

Citizens for a Free Press, led by Ben and Adele Smillie, challenged the Saskatoon daily newspaper to stop refusing pro-Medicare letters to the editor.

Steps on the Road to Medicare - Why Saskatchewan Led the Way - book by C. Stuart Houston

Notably, in 1961, Prime Minister Diefenbaker appointed Justice Emmett Hall – who had experienced poverty and hardship as a young man in the dirty thirties in Saskatchewan — chair of a Royal Commission on Health Services, charged with exploring ways of publicly financing medical services country wide. The resulting Hall Report (1964) pushed for the implementation of a national Medicare scheme, modelled on ours.

[Seymour: Houston, Steps on the Road to Medicare chapter 2. Wright: Diana Wright fonds, Sask Archives. Anderson: Marilyn Deck, in Canadian Encyclopedia. Sigerist: Houston, Steps on the Road to Medicare; Diana Wright fonds, SAB. Other information: Canadian Encyclopedia; Houston; Canadian Dimension, vol. 46 no. 4, 2012; Jim Harding’s blog]  

Medical honourees

Some people honoured by the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (CMHF), the government, or a university

Dr. Baltzan, family and associates. Photo CP-5244 by Creative Professional Photographers, from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library

Dr. Marc Baltzan, Saskatoon, (OC, SOM), pioneer in kidney research who helped perform the second kidney transplant in Canada at Saskatoon, was president of the Canadian Medical Association.

Dr. Richard Baltzan, Saskatoon (OC, QJM, SOM, LLD) was instrumental in hemodialysis treatment of kidney disease. He chaired the Deptartment of Medicine at U of S, and president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Dr. John Conly, a graduate of the U of S Medical College, was recognized by his alma mater for his work as an infectious disease specialist and expert in microbial resistance at the University of Calgary.

The Honourable Dr. Sylvia Fedoruk (OC, SOM) a medical physicist, was born in Canora. She helped develop the world’s first calibrated cobalt-60 unit used for cancer treatment at the U of S.  She was also lieutenant-governor, and a champion curler.

Dr. William Feindel lived for a time in this province, and founded the neurosurgical department at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. He is honoured in the CMHF.

Dr. Robert George Ferguson led in the battle against tuberculosis and received a lifetime membership in the Canadian Medical Association.

Emmett Hall as younbg man. Photo from Uiversity of Saskatchewan Archives
Justice Emmett Hall as young man..
Photo from University of Saskatchewan Archives

Justice Emmett Hall attained an LLB from U of S, and is known by many as one of the Fathers of Medicare. He is in the CMHF.

Dr. Louis Horlick of Saskatoon (OC, SOM, QJM) was a specialist in internal medicine and cardiology, and taught medicine at the U of S.

Dr. C. Stuart Houston of Saskatoon (OC, SOM, QJM) is former head of radiology at the U of S, and author of books on topics ranging from natural history to Medicare.

Dr. Harold Johns, best known for his work in using a calibrated Cobalt-60 unit for treatment of cancer while a member of the U of S. faculty, is in the CMHF.

Dr. Sam Landa of Saskatoon (OC, CM), popular physician catering to athletes, was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame.

Dr. Roberta McKay of Regina, is a physician specializing in dermatology. she received a YWCA Lifetime Achievement award for her philanthropy.

Dr. James Till from Lloydminister, earned a BSc and MSc in physics at U of S. His most stunning contribution to medical science was the discovery, with a colleague, of stem cells while at the University of Toronto. He is in the CMHF.

Dr. Calvin Stiller, who grew up in Naicam and graduated from the U of S College of Medicine, was one of the first to use ciclosporin to prevent rejection of transplanted tissues. He is also in the CMH.

[Wikipedia, Saskatchewan government; email 13 Feb 2018 from CMHOF]

They also served

Other health heroes

Indomitable nurses and others worked in developing countries or countries under siege, and multitudes of other heroes saved folks here in times of crisis.

Ella May Matthews of Maple Creek was a nurse in Europe during the Great War. She nursed in France with the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) in 1917, and at the Somme and Paaschendaele battles. 

Nursing sister Harriet Graham went with the first Canadian contingent to France in World War I, where she served as matron at No. 1 Casualty clearing station. King George awarded her the Royal Red Cross, first rank. She lived in Saskatoon after her marriage to J.D. Macdonald in 1914.

Sophia Dixon of Saskatoon lobbied for change in the law governing birth control in 1931, through the United Farmers of Canada. A founding member of the CCF, she later won a Governor-General’s award for her involvement in the famous Person’s Case.

Allen May of Saskatoon was a university student in 1937 as civil war raged in Spain. A devotee of Dr. Norman Bethune, then pioneering mobile blood transfusion units there, May led a massive blood drive in Saskatoon, inspiring four hundred local donors to donate blood, in just ten days.

Portrait of nurse Jean Ewen, in cap
Jean Ewen accompanied Dr. Norman Bethune to China in 1937. Her book China Nurse chronicles that adventure.

Jean Ewen of Saskatoon accompanied the famous Dr. Norman Bethune to China in 1937 and helped him perform operations in the far northwest during the civil war. After she and the truculent Bethune parted ways, she continued to nurse in the war-torn country on her own for a couple of years. At her request, she was buried in China, next to Bethune. Her family quipped that she probably would have said, “Move over Norman, I’m back.”

Kathleen Ellis, first professor and director of the nursing school at the U of S. Ellis Hall was named for her, the only building on campus named after a woman.

Mary Pyne worked as a nurse for two years in Angola and four years in Zaire (aka Congo). She got her pilot’s license in Medicine Hat in 1976, was a member of Amelia Earhart’s “99s”, and was a founding member of its Saskatchewan chapter, the “Flying Tigers.” As a nurse, she flew into many northern communities in her Cessna two-seater. She received a global citizen award from the Sask. Council for International Co-operation

Barbara Carpio (in braids) and Manuel Carpio (behind her) are shown in the back row
of this photo, taken in Peru. – Supplied photo.

Barbara (Kirkby) Carpio, formerly of Saskatoon, was a public health nursing supervisor from 1971-75 in Pucallpa, Peru when she was called to attend victims of an airplane crash in the jungle. Unfortunately, the plane she was riding in also crash landed, but the occupants were all unhurt and able to tend to patients. They had to catch a ride home in a military helicopter. Back in Canada, Carpio taught community health nursing at the U of S from 1975 to 1979.

The Canadian Red Cross awarded their Florence Nightingale Award to Dawn Marie Anderson, a U of S graduate, for her service during the Israeli-Gaza conflict in 2015.

Jo-Ann Hnatiuk received a U of S alumni award for outstanding service. She went to Afghanistan as a critical care nursing officer for the Canadian armed forces.

Nurse Gerri Dickson of Saskatoon (PhD in community health and epidemiology). did two-year stints in Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, and Mozambique, and also worked in Saskatchewan’s north with Aboriginal people. A faculty member at the U of S, she received a global citizen award from SCIC.

[May: StarPhoenix 26 July 1937. Ewen: Ewen, China Nurse. Anderson: Green & White fall 2015: 31. Pyne: SCIC, Ned Powers, “Pilot Project”, StarPhoenix. Hnatiuk: www.alumni.usask.ca/awards. Dickson: StarPhoenix Sept 2016]

Spanish Flu, 1918

Deadliest epidemic in Saskatchewan history

The first cases of this H1N1 influenza variant in the province, reported in October, 1918, were soldiers returning from the Great War, then railway and restaurant personnel who had come in contact with them.

One of Saskatchewan’s heroes during the Spanish flu was Usask president Walter Murray who quarantined the university campus for seven weeks after all those who wished to leave had left, in the fall of 1918. Until the university re-opened in January 1919, the campus was influenza free — except for Emmanuel College. It was used as an emergency hospital staffed by sixteen volunteers, only one of whom died. Off-campus, Saskatoon was “like a city of the dead.”

This flu spread rapidly, as in the case of the farmer who — with his wife and one of his daughters— died of it within days of getting a haircut from an infected barber in Rouleau.

The Saskatchewan government received several reports in late 1918 of frozen corpses of families, on homesteads, who died from this flu.

Saskatchewan records don’t include the number of deaths on First Nations due to this flu, but it is known to have been higher than the provincial average. Children in residential schools were particularly susceptible, such as at Onion Lake where the dead were reportedly buried in a trench.

There were 4,916 recorded off-reserve deaths due to Spanish flu in the province between September 1918 and December 1919. About half of these occurred after Armistice celebrations in November, 1918.

Of the 2,217 recorded off-reserve deaths due to this flu during 1918, 716 occurred in cities (including 167 in Saskatoon and 255 in Regina), 417 in towns, 546 in villages and 538 on farms.

The provincial Temperance Act was amended by order-in-council in October 1918 to allow druggists to sell a customer up to eight ounces of alcohol “for medicinal purposes”, while the Spanish flu was prevalent.

October 20, 1918 was the first “Churchless Sunday” in the province, when all gatherings for church services were cancelled to prevent the spread of the flu.

To reduce the chances of the flu spreading, there were often burials without funerals that year.

As a further precaution, schools and places of entertainment in cities and towns across the province were also closed for much of the fall of 1918 and into 1919.

[See article in Saskatchewan History (journal) v. 49, no. 1 (spring 1997) and other sources]


How people in Regina handled the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918

Regina suffered a loss of 350 lives. Could we cope with a pandemic today? Would people obey these rules?

Formed an influenza relief committee to coordinate public health efforts

Isolated houses where the residents had flu, with placards in front

Banned church services, public meetings and entertainments

Wore masks, especially barbers

Imposed $50 fines on spitters, sneezers and coughers

Disinfected streetcars every night.

Ate garlic and onions as a preventative measure, along with dubious vaccines.

Volunteered to do clerical work at the relief office

Women staffed soup kitchens, and men provided transport

Nurses, trained and untrained, cared for severely ill patients.

[Riddell, 5]