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WIN! Refugee health care benefits to be fully restored

Rally in Halifax

The Council of Canadians rallies in Halifax for health care for refugees, June 2013.

The Council of Canadians has joined with many allies over the past three years to call for the full reinstatement of the health care coverage that has been denied to refugees by the Harper government since 2012.

CTV explains, “The Interim Federal Health Program provides health care for refugees during the time between their arrival in Canada and the point when they can begin accessing provincial health care coverage. Prescription medications, dental and eyesight coverage are covered under the program. The former Conservative government took away some of those provisions in 2012.” In fact, those cuts included access to vision care, dental care, prescription drugs and mobility devices for all refugees. For many refugees it also included restrictions on primary and basic health care (including medical assistance during emergencies like heart attacks and even during childbirth).

Shortly after the cuts were imposed, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, “The cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program have deprived claimants of basic and emergency health care, a move that front-line health care workers call cruel and inhumane.” To challenge this, we participated in three national days of action for refugee health, helped deliver an open letter and petition signed by over 160 organizations opposed to the cuts to the office of then-finance minister Joe Oliver, commented regularly on the issue (via blogs and tweets by Barlow), and encouraged people to vote against these cuts in the Oct. 2015 federal election. 

More recently, on Nov. 16, 2015, our health campaigner Michael Butler wrote the newly-appointed federal health minister Jane Philpott noting the “cruel and unusual cuts to refugee health care”.

Today, the CBC reports, “All refugee health care benefits will be fully restored to pre-2012 levels by April 1, [2016], Canada’s Liberal government announced Thursday [Feb. 18]. Refugees from any country of origin will be covered once again… In addition, Immigration Minister John McCallum and Health Minister Jane Philpott announced that starting April 1, 2017, additional coverage would be offered to refugees before their departure for Canada.” The Globe and Mail adds, “Starting April 1, 2017, those services will include coverage of the immigration medical examination, pre-departure vaccinations, services to manage disease outbreaks in refugee camps and medical support during travel to Canada.”

The Council of Canadians congratulates the federal government on today’s announcement and all allied organizations that have worked so hard for this.

Further reading
Council calls on Harper to reinstate health care coverage for refugees (Nov. 4, 2014)
Council takes part in rallies for refugee health care (June 18, 2013)
Kamloops chapter joins national protest against cutting of refugee health-care coverage (June 18, 2012)