October 1, 2012
Dr. Meb Rashid and his team at the Crossroads Clinic, Toronto’s first hospital-based refugee clinic, are challenging government policy changes that are affecting the nation’s vulnerable refugee population.
Violence, suffering, discrimination and extreme poverty are some of the reasons why approximately 27,000 refugees were accepted into Canada in 2011, with 25-35 per cent settling in Toronto.
To demonstrate Women’s College Hospital’s (WCH) ongoing commitment to supporting refugees and advocating on their behalf, the hospital’s Refugee Health Advisory Council and the Refugee Health Network hosted a presentation and conversation with Dr. Danielle Grondin, director general of the health branch, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, on Sept. 13. The discussion focused on the issues surrounding recent government cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program and policy changes to refugee health-care coverage in Canada.
Despite protests and opposition from many people, national health associations, including WCH board, staff and physicians, these changes came into effect on June 30.
“We are here to have an important discussion about the consequences that these government health-care cuts will have on individuals who have faced tremendous difficulties and adversity in their lives,” said Dr. Rashid. “Taking away their health care is unjust and we will speak up and be the voice for this vulnerable community.”
The Refugee Health Network and members from WCH’s Refugee Health Advisory Council were in attendance to show their support for refugee services and to challenge recent policy changes. They spoke with Dr. Gordin directly about clarifying the implications of the cuts and the expected repercussions to refugees.
Community members who opposed these policy changes along with health-care professionals, lawyers, social workers and refugees were also part of the discussion. They shared personal and professional stories demonstrating how the policy changes are unfair, discriminatory and ineffective.
All expressed opposition and grave concerns about the government’s creation of a Designated Country of Origin list, which would effectively render all refugee claimants from countries on that list uninsured. Angela Robertson, WCH director of equity and community engagement, requested that Dr. Grondin “reflect the call for withdrawal of a Designated Country of Origin list to the government.”
Dr. Rashid echoed Robertson’s sentiment:
“We urge the government to take a closer look at the implications of their decisions and rethink Canada’s commitment to the refugee community,” he added.
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