Book praise

The author would like to thank the following individuals who took the time to read the manuscript and submit powerful endorsements in support of the book:

  • Gary Geddes, author of Medicine Unbundled: A Journey Through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care
  • Harsha Walia, author of Undoing Border Imperialism
  • Dr Joanne Liu, pediatric emergency physician and former international president of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières)
  • John Borrows, Canada Research Chair in indigenous Law, University of Victoria Law School
  • Lisa Qiluqqi Koperqualuk, M.A., vice-president international affairs, Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada
  • Marie Wadden, author of Where the Pavement Ends: Canada’s Aboriginal Recovery Movement and the Urgent Need for Reconciliation
  • Maureen Lux, author of Separate Beds: A History of Indian Hospitals in Canada, 1920s-1980s
  • Quebec Native Women (Femmes Autochtones du Québec)
  • Robyn Maynard, author of Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from slavery to the present
  • Sherene H. Razack, author of Dying From Improvement: Inquests and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Custody
  • Stephen Lewis, Co-director AIDS-Free World
  • Will Prosper, filmmaker, co-founder of Hoodstock, and human rights activist

“Its clever framing, detailed research and frequent critical gems put Fighting for a Hand to Hold in the very good company of a small group of stellar books and articles about Indigenous health issues, all of them manifestos for change. It’s a passionate and informed report from the medical frontlines that exposes some of the social determinants and racial subtexts that prevent us from improving and safe-guarding the lives of Indigenous peoples and other minorities in Canada.” Gary Geddes, author of Medicine Unbundled: A Journey Through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care

“Samir Shaheen-Hussain’s Fighting For A Hand to Hold is a searing indictment of medical colonialism in Canada. This must-read book shatters the myth of universal and equitable healthcare as a pillar of this country’s benevolent social democracy and, instead, forcefully exposes the active involvement of the medical system in upholding historic and ongoing settler-colonial power.” Harsha Walia, author of Undoing Border Imperialism

Fighting for a Hand to Hold denounces with ferocity the utterly inhuman, decades-long practice of separating children from their families during emergency medevacs in northern and remote regions of Quebec. In a precise, compelling, and well-documented narrative, Samir Shaheen-Hussain challenges our collective understanding of systemic racism and social determinants of health applied to Indigenous communities most dependent on medevac airlifts and most impacted by the non-accompaniment rule. An eye-opening, tough, and essential book.” Dr Joanne Liu, pediatric emergency physician and former international president of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières)

“Heartbroken. This is how I feel after reading Fighting for a Hand to Hold. It hurts to read about children suffering. Shaheen-Hussain’s book does not relieve that pain. Yet his words hold the potential to help us create broader healing, if his insights are heeded.” John Borrows, Canada Research Chair in indigenous Law, University of Victoria Law School

“The memories of the Inuit children I attended as a young interpreter at the Montreal Children’s Hospital came flooding back to me, the sad face of a child looking up at me. Nurses informed me that he was not speaking, but I immediately recognized the fear in his face, in his eyes. As soon as I spoke to him in Inuktitut, he looked at me in disbelief, but in the next moment his tears began to roll and I could only sound out the Inuit sound of love, ‘mmph’, and to tell him it will be alright, and that his mom or a relative would be arriving soon. I felt for that child, and as he began to relax and open up, we had a lovely conversation in Inuktitut. He did not feel so alone in this strange place he had just been deposited on, as if he was cargo. To this day, I still feel for him. Throughout all these years, we all have been made to believe that this is how things should work. It was one of those things we stayed quiet about for decades. But no longer. We Inuit, we are a people. We love our children. Fighting For A Hand To Hold – Confronting Medical Colonialism Against Indigenous Children in Canada, helps us understand the issues of colonization in the medical system that has vexed us as Indigenous peoples. Today, we Inuit are working to bring our health back to our communities. Healthy communities and families mean self-governance to us and the de-colonization process will happen.” Lisa Qiluqqi Koperqualuk, M.A., vice-president international affairs, Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada

“Shaheen-Hussain argues that genuine reconciliation can’t occur without reparations and restitution. Besides disclosure and acknowledgement of the harm done, this means a genuine demonstration of sorrow and regret, a promise to never do harm again, and action that ensures the harm will not be repeated. This book should be read by anyone who wants to meaningfully enter into reconciliation with Indigenous people.” Marie Wadden, author of Where the Pavement Ends: Canada’s Aboriginal Recovery Movement and the Urgent Need for Reconciliation

“In Fighting For A Hand To Hold - Confronting Medical Colonialism Against Indigenous Children in Canada physician Samir Shaheen-Hussain exposes the social, cultural, and historical structures that allow medical colonialism to hide in plain sight as it harms generations of Indigenous children and their families. It is an unflinching analysis that should be required reading in every medical school in the country.” Maureen Lux. Professor and Chair, History Department, Brock University; author of Separate Beds: A History of Indian Hospitals in Canada, 1920s-1980s

“In Fighting for a Hand to Hold: Confronting Medical Colonialism against Indigenous Children in Canada, Samir Shaheen-Hussain addresses different aspects of the healthcare system offered to indigenous people, always stressing that this is a field strongly marked by colonial power relations, historically perpetuated by the Canadian state. Starting from a harsh critique of the current health policies dispensed to indigenous children and their families, the book takes us to a profound reflection on how medical colonialism and systemic racism perpetuate themselves, and how movements for sovereignty and decolonial thinking are key pieces in changing diverse paradigms. The book shows that important changes in the health system offered to indigenous peoples have not yet been executed, which prevents an effective transformation of the healthcare system. This mismatch between the discourses and the reality is in tune with the maintenance of the colonial posture in relation to indigenous peoples is still in force in the Canadian State. While grounded firmly in the academic literature, the author uses language that will be easily accessible to a general audience and will incite the reader to engage in a profound examination of Canada’s history and its relationship with Indigenous peoples. A moving and necessary book. A must-read for all who are interested in one of the most macabre faces of medical colonialism: its genocidal and eugenicist face.” Quebec Native Women (Femmes Autochtones du Québec)

“A necessary and sobering read. Shaheen-Hussain’s text masterfully exposes the ways in which the logics of settler colonialism and genocide are structurally embedded into Canada’s healthcare system. It illuminates how egregious racial violence takes place – in plain sight – under the direction of a publicly-funded institution that is broadly understood, to most Canadians, as a social good. The book, meticulously researched, firmly centers Canada’s medical system as a crucial site for ongoing anti-colonial struggle.” Robyn Maynard, author of Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from slavery to the present

“A sick child is transported by plane to a hospital 1000 kilometres away alone and without a parent to accompany the child, a state practice without pity. No parent can read this and not feel a sharp pain yet so many managed to defend the practice even when the mothers of the children who died alone en route publicly grieved that they were never able to give comfort to their dying children. This is the racial terror that was aimed at Indigenous peoples in the province of Quebec. This book tells the story of the fight to change what so clearly springs from the annihilative impulse at the heart of settler colonialism. What can we learn from this book about the struggle to abolish the practice? This practice was no mere discriminatory residue of an old colonial system long gone. Instead it is a telling sign of an ongoing settler colonialism, one deeply structured to “disappear Indians” and to declare Indigenous lives as worth less than white ones. Samir Shaheen-Hussain’s clear-eyed account reminds us that we can change but not until we recognize this ugly truth.” Sherene H. Razack, Distinguished Professor and Penny Kanner Endowed Chair in Gender Studies, UCLA. Author of Dying From Improvement: Inquests and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Custody

“An astonishing book. It begins with the anguished story of Cree and Inuit children from northern Quebec travelling alone by air, sick or injured, panic-stricken, to hospitals in the south, and becomes one of the most moving, ferocious, historically comprehensive narratives of medical colonialism and indigenous cultural genocide that I have ever read. It’s a stunning piece of work. When I finally put it down, I was gasping … an absolute tour-de-force.” Stephen Lewis, Co-director AIDS-Free World

Fighting for A Hand to Hold, which addresses the systemic racism faced by Indigenous communities in the healthcare system in Quebec and Canada, will make you sick. This book opens our eyes by delving into decades of medical colonialism that is still very much with us today. It is an essential read to strive toward collective healing, by better understanding and fighting against the racialized medical violence inflicted on Indigenous peoples throughout this country.” Will Prosper, filmmaker, co-founder of Hoodstock, and human rights activist