The NFB is committed to respecting your privacy

We use cookies to ensure that our site works efficiently, as well as for advertising purposes.

If you do not wish to have your information used in this way, you can modify your browser settings before continuing your visit.

Learn more

Healthcare in Canada (Ages 18+)

Healthcare in Canada (Ages 18+)

This selection of short and feature-length documentaries will guide viewers on a journey spanning the inception of our healthcare system to where we stand today. Included are films about social and community programs, organ donation, a biography of Tommy Douglas, the “Father of Medicare,” and a critical look at First Nations access to a proper standard of care.

Pour visionner cette sélection en français, cliquez ici.

Films in This Playlist Include
Bitter Medicine, Part One: The Birth of Medicare
Bitter Medicine, Part Two: Medicare in Crisis
Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger
Bevel Up - Drugs, Users and Outreach Nursing
Tommy Douglas: Keeper of the Flame
Growing Up Canadian: Health
Citizens' Medicine
Vital Bonds
We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice

  • Tommy Douglas: Keeper of the Flame
    1986|57 min

    This feature documentary traces the political career of T.C. (Tommy) Douglas, former premier of Saskatchewan and leader of the New Democratic Party, who was voted the Greatest Canadian in 2004 for his devotion to social causes, his charm and his powers of persuasion. Known as the "Father of Medicare," this one-time champion boxer and fiery preacher entered politics in the 1930s and never looked back.

  • Bitter Medicine, Part One: The Birth of Medicare
    campus 1983 | 27 min

    Part one of a 2-part documentary examining Canada's national health insurance system, from its conception on the Canadian Prairies in the early part of the 20th century to its present state of crisis. This first part traces the events leading to July 2, 1962, the day on which Medicare was launched in Saskatchewan. The doctors reacted to the plan by declaring a general strike. The film recreates this stormy chapter of history through film and television archives and personal testimonies, particularly those of former Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas and Chief Justice Emmett Hall.

  • Bitter Medicine, Part Two: Medicare in Crisis
    1983|28 min

    Part two of a 2-part documentary examining Canada's national health insurance system from its conception on the Canadian Prairies in the early part of the 20th century to its present state of crisis. This second part examines national Medicare 20 years after its inception and the bitter struggle among various authorities as they jockey to attain a position of power in a new scheme of things.

  • Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger
    2019|1 h 5 min

    Alanis Obomsawin's 52nd film tells the story of how the life of Jordan River Anderson initiated a battle for the right of First Nations and Inuit children to receive the same standard of social, health and educational services as the rest of the Canadian population.

  • Bevel Up - Drugs, Users and Outreach Nursing
    2007|45 min

    Bevel Up follows street nurses as they reach out to people working in the sex trade, and people who use drugs in the alleys and hotels of Vancouver’s inner city. Most importantly the nurses reflect on the attitudes they bring to their work—attitudes that can make or break their relationships with the people to whom they provide practical, non-judgemental health care on a daily basis.

    The Bevel Up Educational Playlists offer viewers a dynamic way to learn through more than four hours of additional footage, interviews and a Teachers Guide. The interactive resource gives students and instructors in the healthcare field access to the experiences of practitioners who work with people who use drugs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

    For more information, images, and clips, click here.

  • Citizens' Medicine
    1970|30 min

    In Montréal, the St. Jacques Citizens' Committee set up a community health clinic, aided by volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists and medical students. This film shows discussion, planning, and the clinic in operation, and presents its problems and advantages as seen both by medical workers and by local residents. Members of the Citizens' Committee participated in the making of the film, from original planning through filming, selecting and editing.

  • We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice
    2016|2 h 42 min

    The rights of First Nations children take centre stage in this monumental documentary. Following a historic court case filed by the Assembly of First Nations and the Child and Family Caring Society of Canada against the federal government, Alanis Obomsawin exposes generations of injustices endured by First Nations children living on reserves and their families. Through passionate testimony and unwavering conviction, frontline childcare workers and experts including Cindy Blackstock take part in a decade-long court battle to ensure these children receive the same level of care as other Canadian children. Their case against Canada is a stark reminder of the disparities that persist in First Nations communities and the urgent need for justice to be served.

  • Vital Bonds
    2016|52 min

    Canada's organ donation rate is the lowest in the industrialized world – and every organ lost is also a life. For the first time ever on-screens, Vital Bonds gives viewers unprecedented access to the powerful real-life human stories of organ donation in Canada. Following a traumatic brain injury, the family of 28-year old athlete Matthew makes the decision to donate his organs. A two-week old baby girl named Harlow receives a donor heart from the far side of the continent. These are just some of the life and death stories covered with unflinching authenticity to show the lasting impact and major importance of organ donation in Canada.

  • Growing Up Canadian: Health
    2003|45 min

    Early campaigns to fight poverty and disease and help children grow up healthy led to the introduction of the school nurse, nose blowing drills and lice inspections. From open-air schools to confusing sex education classes, Health was a part of the curriculum throughout the last century.

    This episode traces the rise of dental care, from early century programs in schools to dentists traveling to remote areas by boat or train. Canadians recall terrifying epidemics and lengthy periods of quarantine. Home remedies were frightening enough to keep children from complaining about being ill. Over the course of the century we see the impact of public health care on children's lives.

    Health is one of a 6-part series entitled Growing Up Canadian. These documentaries explore the myths and realities of Canadian childhood through family life, schooling, work, play, health and the media. The series marks the contribution of childhood and youth experience in defining Canada as it grew into full nationhood in the 20th century.