Ontario’s Announcement to Fill the Refugee Health Gap a Win for Migrant Communities
Toronto, December 10, 2013 – Health for All welcomes yesterday’s announcement that Ontario will join Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Quebec in filling the gap left by federal cuts to refugee health care and send the federal government the bill. In January 2013, Health for All launched the #FilltheIFHGap campaign, delivering a petition with over 1000 signatures of healthcare workers via stretcher to Minister Deb Matthews, urging the province to fill the gap. Almost a year later, the Minister has announced a plan to do just that.
“We are very happy to see that Minister Matthews has responded to community mobilization on this issue and has worked to fill the gap left by the Conservative government’s refugee health cuts,” stated Nikki Bozinoff, a physician and Health for All member. “However, we also know that there are still many migrants left without health coverage in Canada and we have a long way to go before our health care system is truly universal.”
The refugee health cuts are intimately linked with Bill C-31, which creates a two-tier refugee claims system discriminating against people by country of origin. This disproportionately affects the claims of women fleeing domestic violence, individuals from LGBT communities, as well as ethnic minorities. The recent cuts left claimants from these “safe” countries, as well as some rejected claimants, with effectively no access to health care services or medications. Migrants and health providers alike fought hard for the temporary health coverage the new announcement will provide. There still remains, however, the broader issue of tying health coverage to immigration status which leaves the estimated 500,000 medically uninsured people in Canada in the same position as before the cuts. These numbers include new immigrants and temporary migrant workers in the 3-month waiting period in Ontario, BC and Quebec, as well as undocumented people.
“Today marks a victory as part of a long struggle for improved access to care for migrants in this province,” said Bozinoff. “However, the struggle is not yet over and we will continue to push for health services for all people in Canada irrespective of immigration status.”
Media contact: Nikki Bozinoff, MD
Health for All is a diverse group of migrants, healthcare professionals, students, activists and allies. We believe health is a fundamental human right and a matter of social justice. We call for access to healthcare for all people without fear of debt, denial of service, detention or deportation.