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 Canada's International Role


"Until the mid-1900s, TB was attacked as a local problem in Canada, and voluntary TB organizations accordingly assumed a narrow focus. This was both essential and effective in the beginning--for at this time, the geographic distances separating cities and towns offered an effective barrier to the spread of disease from one area to another, and the geographic boundaries and continents permitted the more fortunate of them to live in relatively safe isolation. This is no longer the case, for the world of disease has become a single community where transmission is only a matter of hours between the most distant points. Disease makes each member of the modern world a neighbour to all the rest, and a tuberculous person in any part of the world should be the concern of all of his neighbours. We are now faced with TB on a global front and our concept of control must be new, courageous and global. As a result of both the geographical boundaries between regions and the heaviness of the TB plague on each individual region, the anti-tuberculosis campaign was waged on a local scale for the most part. Within Canada, the fight remained extremely provincial despite the existence of a national organization that shared information."

-- modified from Wherrett in The Miracle of the Empty Beds, 1977

- Introduction
- Teaching
- Resources
- Programs

Another factor contributing to this effect was the nature of our constitution, which made healthcare a responsibility of the provincial governments under the British North America Act. Despite the presence these factors in the early years, we can still gain a picture of the role Canada played in fighting TB globally. Most of this comes from anecdotal references (under "Teaching and Resources") to Canadians who were ahead of their time, helping out other nations despite a plague that continued to rage at home in Canada.

Beginning in the 1960s, however, Canada became directly involved in the fight against TB in more than 9 countries. International aid, and the development of anti-tuberculosis organizations around the world, was now in the Canadian Lung Association's mandate. Support at this time was given under the "Mutual Assistance Program" of the International Union Against Tuberculosis (IUAT, now the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease).