An exploration of anti-Indigenous systemic racism in Canadian health care, medical violence inflicted upon Indigenous children, and the medical establishment’s role in colonial genocide.

Launched by healthcare providers in January 2018, the #aHand2Hold campaign confronted the Quebec government’s practice of separating children from their families during medical evacuation airlifts, which disproportionately affected remote and northern Indigenous communities. Pediatric emergency physician Samir Shaheen-Hussain’s captivating narrative of this successful campaign, which garnered unprecedented public attention and media coverage, seeks to answer lingering questions about why such a cruel practice remained in place for so long. By focusing on the structural drivers of the social determinants of health, this book serves as an indispensable case study of contemporary medical colonialism in Quebec, and demonstrates that inequalities in health care follow the fault lines of societal injustices. 

Fighting for A Hand to Hold exposes the Canadian medical establishment’s role in the displacement, colonization, and genocide of Indigenous Peoples — colonial genocide. Through meticulously gathered government documentation, historical scholarship, media reports, public inquiries, and personal testimonies, Shaheen-Hussain connects the draconian medevac practice with often-disregarded crimes committed against and medical violence inflicted upon Indigenous children across the country for more than a century and a half: fomented smallpox epidemics and avoidable tuberculosis deaths; experiments and abuse in residential schools, Indian Hospitals, reserves, and communities; forced sterilization; child abduction and disappearances.  This devastating history and ongoing medical colonialism prevent Indigenous communities from attaining internationally recognized measures of health and social well-being because of a pervasive culture of systemic anti-Indigenous racism that persists in the Canadian public health care system— and in capitalist settler society at large. 

Shaheen-Hussain’s unique perspective combines his experience as a frontline pediatrician with his long-standing involvement in anti-authoritarian social justice movements. Sparked by the indifference and callousness of those in power, this book draws on the innovative work of Indigenous scholars and activists to conclude that a broader decolonization struggle calling for reparations, restitution (including land reclamation), and self-determination for Indigenous Peoples is critical to achieve reconciliation in Canada.

Foreword by Cindy Blackstock
Afterword by Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel

Published by McGill-Queen’s University Press
(Indigenous and Northern Studies series)