UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

White coats in the streets : physician advocacy and the Interim Federal Health Program in Canada, 2012-2016 Harrison, Clea


In April 2012, Canada’s federal Conservative government quietly announced drastic reforms to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), a policy designed to provide temporary healthcare coverage to refugees, refugee claimants, asylum seekers, and other precarious status groups. The decision shocked physicians across the country, prompting them to coordinate and engage in four years of direct action against the Harper government to protest the reform. Drawing on semistructured interviews with 16 physicians across Canada, as well as a relevant sample of media content from 2012 to 2016, this thesis explores the multiple and changing ways in which physicians understood both their profession and ‘Canada’ during (and after) the period of reform. I engage with literature on the IFHP reform, health social movement scholarship, and medical literature on physician advocacy, as addressing this topic thoroughly requires an interdisciplinary approach. I argue that the physician-led health social movement around the IFHP reform resulted, in part, from physicians’ sense that the Harper government’s policy clashed with their responsibilities as Canadian physicians and their imaginings of the Canadian nation as humanitarian and communitarian. In fighting against this clash, physicians engaged in actions traditionally deemed ‘activist,’ which challenged conventional interpretations of the CanMEDS Health Advocate Role, thus pushing the boundaries of what is expected of their profession in Canada. This research contributes to current conversations in Canada regarding the CanMEDS Health Advocate Role and teaching physician advocacy, as well as to geographic studies of professions and their expertise.

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