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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

47.8 years

I read in an article today that the average life expectancy in Canada is now 75.6 years. Whoo-hoo! The article also stated, to my shock and horror, that, by region, the territory of Nunavut has an average life expectancy of only 47.8 years.

Shock. Horror. I'm not using these terms lightly. This little tidbit of trivia from Statistics Canada appalls me! How is it possible that, as Canadians, living in a country that is consistently rated as one of the top five to live in, we can stand by and allow a portion of our citizenry to live the kind of conditions that produce such a shortening of lifespan?

Make no mistake, this horribly truncated survival rate is directly attributed to poverty and quality of life. While Nunavut is, admittedly, a much less hospitable place to live than, say, the Niagara Peninsula, most of these Northerners' woes come from poor food supplies, poor health care, and limited access to any health care, poor or otherwise. Just about everything that the people of Nunavut eat is either hunted, or shipped in from the wealthy south. Due to shipping costs (and perhaps a large portion of apathy), only the cheapest, poorest quality foods end up on Nunavut tables.

A life expectancy of 47 years is in line with that of your typical third world nation. In fact, it's not that much higher the the life expectancy of your average fringe citizen of the Holy Roman Empire -- y'know, from a couple thousand years ago? If I'd heard this at a party, and not already had a general notion of what Nunavut life was like, I would've thought the speaker ready to be cut off from imbibing any more alcohol, lest he heave his stomach contents onto my shoes. It's nearly unbelievable, except for the fact that it's completely true.

47.8 years. Think about it. How many people do you know who are past their 47th birthday. Okay, now take more than half of them, and pretend they're dead. Does that make it seem more real now?

There is no way, as a conscientious citizen of this country we like to call the Great White North, that I can just sit here, and twiddle my thumbs, and hope that the problem gets fixed by someone else.

And the next time someone complains to me about how their taxes should be lowered, and they should get free X-Box in a private room the next time they end up in the hospital, I'm going have a very particular reply ready for them:

"47.8 years. Maybe you should be dead already."

Just keep thinking about it.



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