From Forest to Farm (and tomorrow’s heroes).

November 22nd 2012

Forest to Farm is the name of a fascinating book. It describes how new Canadians, in the early 1800’s arrived from England, Scotland, Ireland and some regions of Europe into Upper Canada to start a new life. They were given 50 acre parcels of land, mostly dense old growth forest. Handed a pick and shovel, when they cleared those 50 acres, they were given 50 more to clear. They cared for their new home that cared for them.

This story was repeated all across Canada.

Last week driving across Canada in November, minus 30 degree temperatures and 40 cm of snow on the prairies closed the Trans Canada Highway. Looking out the motel window I could only wonder what it was these pioneers were leaving, what was it that made them to come to this frozen land, to see this as a better place, a brighter future?

The answer of course is mixed. Some were leaving debt, many more were leaving conflict, famine, poverty, religious and other persecution. It was freedom they sought, a better life for their children, the chance for security from their hard efforts.

Have things changed? Have we?

In a recent clinic we treated Priya, a pregnant patient and her family from South Asia. There, the family was threatened with death because they changed religions. The children were threatened with kidnapping and death. Other children in their neighbourhood have been kidnapped, and never seen again.

So, they did what our heroes from the 1800’s did. They left their unsafe country and came to Canada, seeking the same safety. They have effective IFH medical coverage until their refugee hearing. Priya has diabetes and needs help with the pregnancy. Many doctors turned them down because they had IFH. This discrimination is all too common. It is worse since June 30th 2012. Others ignored the IFH and never even made the inquiry to determine if they were covered.  Several physicians demanded up front money before seeing them. One doctor, a specialist, a very special doctor took them in and cared for them, then referred them to us for ongoing care.

Canadians often look back fondly, and with reverence on those earlier newcomers to Canada from the 1800’s. We regard them as heros who left their homelands and enriched and built  ours. They braved the elements. We are all connected to somewhere else.

Priya, her husband and two children were hard not to like as they waited patiently in the clinic with their two young children. It was late before we could get to them. Both girls waited quietly at their parents side. Their father has already taken under the table work – not clearing 50 acres of land and then another 50, but clearing 50 dirty dishes and washing them, and then clearing 50 more. He was an engineer back home. Just like in the 1800s, he is doing the work we won’t.

How different then is he, his family from those earlier hero pioneers we reminisce on? When his wife needs a doctor for her pregnancy, why won’t many of us accept Priya for care?

She is tomorrow’s hero.


Some Physicians have much to answer for in this sordid mess!

November 20, 2012 ( updated Nov 21, 2012)

This evening’s uninsured free clinic brought clarity to confusion, and more confusion.

More refugee claimants denied access to care by family doctors. This failure to provide care because of only a “perceived” lack of IFH insurance, is stunning. It is unacceptable professional irresponsibility.

One patient had chest pain and valid IFH. Another, a child of 7 with a cleft lip and palate that had become infected, had valid IFH. Another, a 28 year old diabetic is 10 weeks pregnant. Her 2 children were with her tonight. She lost her last pregnancy, and her unborn child, due to high blood pressure at 5 months gestation, brought on by religious violence and threats to kidnap and kill her family in an Asian country.

They fled to Canada and were provided with IFH upon their refugee claim. That IFH is valid. The IFH of all the above persons is valid.

So why did they all come to a free volunteer clinic for medical care? They can get care from other family doctors, right. Apparently not.

The family of the pregnant diabetic lady tried 8 family physician offices in the past 48 hours, seeking medical care. They were turned down by all. At several of the offices they were told to pay $50 up front if they wanted care.  This is in spite of having valid IFH medical coverage. Extra billing is illegal.

No one checked their IFH papers. None of the doctors bothered to call Blue Cross to determine if the IFH coverage was valid. It was.

Here is what we are now seeing.  Patients, refugee claimants new to Canada with medically urgent problems, with valid IFH medical coverage, are being denied care and in some cases asked to pay more, by area family doctors who refuse to undertake their care because of the confusion and additional paper work the new IFH – Blue Cross – CIC created. We also experience horrible problems obtaining their prior files. Physicians who drop their care then charge them for care, and the file transfer to us so we can care for them.

The Ontario Medical Association, The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and The College of Family Physicians of Canada should strongly remind their members of their professional responsibilities when it comes to refusing care, safely and professionally transferring community care of their ill patients, and charging money in these cases for care and chart transfer when the physician refuses care.

The CIC and Mr Kenney should issue statements that once and for all clear up the confusing mess their ill conceived policies and mis-managed roll out have created.

Preferably before another medically uninsured someone is injured, or dies.



Just Tell us the Truth

November 15, 2012

As Canadian citizens, at whose behest you serve, we are owed that by our Governments.

This is not a diary story. But it explains why we have so many new refugee diaries. It verifies what we have all suspected and have been saying. Finally someone who knows has admitted that the cuts to refugee healthcare were made” behind closed doors”, without consultation, minus the democracy. The following appeared in the Ottawa citizen in November 2012

OTTAWA —  A controversial decision to strip certain refugee claimants of supplementary health benefits was apparently made behind closed doors without consultation, the government now admits.

Rick Dykstra, the parliamentary secretary to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, revealed this week that the cuts were actually part of the government’s budget tabled in March. But because budget deliberations are subject to secrecy, there was no option to get input from stakeholders, many of whom have vocally opposed the decision.”

Refugee claimant health, their lives, are now secret  “budget items”.

This is now how Canada is governed. It is how social justice and our values as a Nation are determined, for us. If we let this go by, we let everything go by. The Liberal and NDP Immigration critics had the following to say….

“At the end of the day, the minister of immigration, who failed on this whole issue and should listen to what all the stakeholders are saying and admit that he screwed up quite frankly, he didn’t do any consultation. And now he tries to pass on that he couldn’t do it because it was part of the budget? That is nothing but a cop-out. He had a moral responsibility to do some homework on this.”

NDP immigration critic Jinny Sims said she was told the policy change had nothing to do with the budget and suggested the late-day excuse is another example of “a government that is making it up as they go along.”

“There is too much power that is vested into this minister so that he avoids parliamentary oversight and parliamentary discussion and I would  say Canadian oversight over the decisions he makes,” she said.

“It’s become very clear they have not thought through the real impact of the changes they are making and then they end up having to make this kind of Monty Pythonish argument that they’re making right now.”

Why did the Conservatives do it this way? Why the secrecy? Two reasons. Because they could, and because they knew any other route would not pass the smell test, and would not produce their desired result.

The more painful question is – why are we letting them?

Read more:

“Your Money or Your Life” – as a taxpayer….

November 10th, 2012 ( updated November 14th)

We often hear the argument — “We can’t expect Canadian taxpayers to pay for healthcare for uninsured New Canadians”. Jason Kenney, on the I channel Documentary “Your Money or Your Life” repeated this argument. He went so far as to label New Canadians who expect differently, as “irresponsible”.

Who qualifies as a taxpayer?

Does arriving in Canada and buying a chocolate bar, where 15% of the purchase is a tax, qualify one as a taxpayer? No? How about purchasing a pair of winter boots to fend off the snow, and a winter coat and pair of gloves to fend off the cold winds of their new land?  Each item has a 15% tax applied to it — tax dollars that go to support a healthcare system “Canadian taxpayers” access, but that New Canadians are denied access to.

We find the “taxpayer” argument, and Mr Kenney’s comments, ringing hollow.

Still not convinced? If a New Canadian works in a Nursing Home after arriving, and is in the 3 month wait for healthcare, and takes a job cleaning the latrines of our parent’s room in a Nursing Home, cleaning up their faeces, and paying taxes from their minimum wage – would that be enough to convince the majority of Canadians they should receive healthcare when they get an infection from this work?

That was Theresa’s job when she arrived from Bangladesh – cleaning our, our parent’s and family member’s excrement from toilets. That was when her illness struck. She was forced to go off work, unable to afford healthcare. Theresa is now a Canadian Citizen. All this happened 13 years ago, when our clinic first started. Theresa still works in that same Nursing Home, still taking care of our family and loved ones.

The Ontario Government is responsible for the policy that places thousands just like Theresa in harm’s way. Mr. Kenney is the current Current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in Canada. He stated that taxpayers should not have helped persons like Theresa get healthcare. He has defined Theresa, and others just like her, as “irresponsible”.




So, can anyone donate $6000 to help?

November 1st 2011.

Adya is 34 years old. She arrived in Canada, on a work permit, in 2008. She had a job offer, and was employed from the outset as a nanny in Toronto. She worked continuously, for several consecutive employers, until February 2012.

That comes to 4 years of working, paying taxes, in Canada, in Toronto, legally.

When her employer noticed, in February, that Adya was pregnant (she started to “show”), they suddenly no longer “needed her services”. They let her go. Out of work, in Toronto, meant that Ontario cut Adya off from her heath coverage ( OHIP).

So, out of work, and out of money for healthcare, for pregnancy care, Adya went from February 2012, to October 2012, until she was 35 weeks, without any pregnancy care. She couch surfed. She had inadequate funds for food. Her nutrition suffered.

So did that of her as yet unborn child, and Canadian citizen.

Adya will likely need a C- Section. As her doctors, we are being asked to pay for her operation and care. We are a volunteer frontline group of healthcare workers. We cannot afford to, nor should we be asked to.

When did these extreme views on compassion and healthcare enter Canadian “social justice”? When did Ontario falter and loose its way? Do a majority of reasonable, fair minded Canadians actually believe in these extreme policies? Do they believe what is happening to Adya, and her unborn is acceptable? Do we believe Ontario cannot correct this?

We are hoping for a positive pregnancy outcome for Adya, her baby, and Canada.