Refugee Health – acknowledging & appreciating the advocacy work of Canada’s health care professionals

You’ve likely heard the news. Changes to the federal government’s Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) will take effect on June 30, 2012.

IFHP provides health-care benefits to:

  • protected persons, including resettled refugees;
  • refugee claimants; and
  • certain other groups who are not eligible for provincial or territorial health insurance.

According to CIC, “the biggest change will be the end of most pharmacy benefits, and all vision, dental and other supplemental benefits.” CIC has created a table summarizing these changes (outlining who is affected, what their current benefits are, what their new benefits will be).

This has been a season of announcements and major changes to Canada’s immigration system. Something Minister Kenney refers to as “transformative change.” Much of this change is occurring without consultation.

In this case, a group that would have considered itself a key part of a health-care related consultation is speaking out. And, they’re acting in what I consider unprecedented ways.

I think it’s important to document this effort and thank our health-care professionals for bringing attention to this issue. You might consider them  “unusual actors” on issues related to immigration and refugees. In reality, we are all actors when it comes to including and integrating newcomers in our cities. As you’ll see below, health-care professionals and their values are directly related to changes affecting refugee health, public health and, therefore, all of us.

There are a lot of links below, and much to read.  I’d recommend starting with these articles:



Direct Action

I’m not sure about you, but when I first heard that doctors were protesting on Parliament Hill and then occupying an MPs office, I had to give my head a shake! But, here you go:

90 Canadian Physicians protest dangerous cuts to Refugee Health Care at MP Joe Oliver’s office

Some coverage of their actions:

The heads of several of Canada’s leading health-care organizations have written a strongly worded letter (PDF) to the federal immigration minister, urging him to rescind plans to cut health services to refugees and refugee claimants.

It was signed by the heads of eight prominent health-care groups:

  • The Canadian Association of Optometrists
  • The Canadian Medical Association
  • The Canadian Nurses Association
  • The Canadian Association of Social Workers
  • The Canadian Dental Association
  • The Canadian Pharmacists Association
  • The College of Family Physicians of Canada
  • The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
As well, some of the organizations have written their own assessments and calls to action for their members:

The City of Toronto Medical Officer of Health recommended that the Board of Health call on the federal government to reinstate the IFHP to maintain interim support for refugee and refugee claimant health care needs (Health Impacts of Reduced Federal Health Services for Refugees). This item was considered by the Toronto Board of Health on May 28, 2012 and was adopted with amendments. It will be considered by City Council on June 6, 2012.

A coalition has quickly formed: Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and they’re organizing a Day of Action on June 18: On Monday, June 18th, 2012 in cities across the country physicians and others opposed to cutting health services for refugees wille be participating in a day of action.

A petition has been created to  to stop the pending changes to the Interim Federal Health program: Petition: Stop the cuts to healthcare for refugees in Canada.

You can also follow the Twitter hashtag #refugeehealth to get updates, connect with/follow health-care professionals who are active on this issue and find out more. If you have a chance, chime in and thank them for their work on behalf of all of us.


Additional media coverage

Thanks. Your work is noticed and especially appreciated by all of us who work with immigrants and refugees in Canada.

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Communications in social services/social change, immigration, diversity & inclusion in Toronto. Wannabe librarian, interested in nonprofit tech innovation.

Communications in social services/social change, immigration, diversity & inclusion in Toronto. Wannabe librarian, interested in nonprofit tech innovation.

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