Name of the activity: Health Care for Migrants

Country/NMO: Canada (CFMS)

Program: Ethics & Human Rights in Health

Contact information: [email protected]

Type of the activity: Campaign. Combination of education and advocacy. Campaigns create awareness in society about a certain topic (education aspect) and try to funnel this awareness into pressure on the decision makers to adapt policies accordingly (advocacy aspect).

General description:

The Health Care for Migrants campaign began after the July 24th, 2018 UN decision condemning Canada for its failure to protect the universal right to life and security of the person, when they discriminated against Nell Toussaint in her access to healthcare, based on her immigration status. Through an open letter campaign, sent on December 18 (International Migrants Day), and a following National Day of Action on February 12th, we are conducting public education, raising awareness, and working to lobby the Canadian government to change policy in order to stop the denial of healthcare based on immigration status. This campaign involves the health community across Canada, as evidenced by interest in actions from Victoria, BC to St. John’s NFLD. More information can be found at healthcareformigrants.com.

Focus area:

Rights of patients, doctors and medical students

Problem statement:

The Health Care for Migrants campaign brings together the health community across Canada, who are appalled by the existing policies that place the lives and health of hundreds of thousands of migrants unnecessarily at risk by failing to provide access to healthcare services in Canada. Access to health care is a universal human right, and at present, there are at least 500,000 individuals in Ontario alone who do not have access to healthcare on the basis of their immigration status.

Target groups:

General population, Medical students, Healthcare Students, Other Students, Doctors, Other health professionals, Children, Youth, Women, Migrants, Refugees, People with disabilities, Elderly people, Homeless people, LGBTQIA+ community, Incarcerated individuals

Beneficiaries:

General population, Medical students, Healthcare Students, Other Students, Doctors, Other health professionals, Children, Youth, Women, Migrants, Refugees, People with disabilities, Elderly people, Homeless people, LGBTQIA+ community, Incarcerated individuals

Objectives and indicators of success:

Through a successful open letter campaign, National Day of Action, and advocacy to the general public as well as directly to the federal government (Prime Minister, Federal Health Minister, and Federal Immigration Minister), this campaign seeks to educate the public on the issue of lack of access to healthcare for all, contribute to changing the anti-newcomer rhetoric recently more pervasive in Canada, as well as actively and primarily urge the federal government to change policy. The United Nations Human Rights Committee recently issued a landmark decision condemning Canada for denying access to essential health care on the basis of immigration status, based on the case of Nell Toussaint. The UN has given Canada 180 days – until February 9th – to report on a review of national legislation, “to ensure that irregular migrants have access to essential health care to prevent a reasonably foreseeable risk that can result in loss of life.” The Canadian government has thus far failed to take any action on this issue.

Methodology:

In light of the UN decision discussed, over 1500 individuals and 80 organizations signed an open letter addressed to the federal government. The UN has given Canada 180 days – until February 9th – to report on a review of national legislation, “to ensure that irregular migrants have access to essential health care to prevent a reasonably foreseeable risk that can result in loss of life.” The Canadian government has thus far failed to take any action on this issue. Our National Day of Action on February 12th currently has participation from 15 cities in Canada, coast-to-coast, and we expect hundreds of people to come out and show their support at an action in their area, to continue to show the Canadian government that we are calling on them to stop the denial of healthcare on the basis of immigration status.

Plans for evaluation:

As this is a campaign to the wider general public, and including healthcare providers, medical students, the broader health community, we may conduct a survey during a future action to poll the public and healthcare community as to their change in opinion on providing access to healthcare for all in Canada, including migrants. It is difficult to monitor tangible progress on culture change, so this will be done over a few years. Through meetings at the federal government level, we will also be producing reports on the thoughts expressed by Federal Ministers involved in this issue (e.g. Health and Immigration), and will report back on this.