Without Saskatchewan’s Justice Emmett Hall, there may have not been any universal healthcare in Canada.
The late Hall was the man who wrote the legislation around Canada’s universal healthcare system and Thursday, he will be enshrined into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.
Hall is one of 6 inductees to enter the Hall of Fame. He is also the lone posthumous inductee.
Lisa Foster is the Executive Director with the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.
She says Justice Hall is one of the reasons there is no watermark for an inductee into the Hall of Fame because there are many people who made contributions to healthcare from other professions.
Foster says when Tommy Douglas, had doubts as to whether his healthcare methodology would be possible to implement nationwide, Hall had a different attitude and constantly said “most definitely” it was possible.
Foster says Dr. John Wedge, Hall’s grandson, will be receiving the Hall of Fame Medal on Hall’s behalf at the ceremony in Quebec City.
Born to a poor Irish family near Montreal in 1898, Emmett Hall studied law in Saskatchewan and served as Chief Justice of the province (appeal division) before his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1962.
In 1961, at the request of the Diefenbaker government, Justice Hall led the Royal Commission on Health Services, interviewing hundreds of witnesses in public hearings, bringing attention to the challenges faced by ordinary men and women living with illness or injury.
Justice Hall lived to age 95 and was active and influential in many major issues including Indigenous rights and the rights of the disabled.
He has been described as an establishment radical, a man who understood power and the intricacies of politics, but who repeatedly sided with the common man and the needs of the poor.
Challenged by opponents who believed expanded health care was too expensive, Justice Hall responded; “The only thing more expensive than good health care is no health care.”