Every Women, Every Child? (Just not refugees in Canada)

Volunteer Clinic, May 2014

Adella arrived from Nigeria, pregnant. She came as a refugee claimant. She had no intention of coming but the Chief of her village, criticized by his tribe for the high number of maternal mother and child deaths, decreed it was due to a reducing number of female circumcisions in the village. He implemented a stepped up “mutilation” program of newborns and young girls. That’s when Adella grabbed her daughter, and pregnant she paid an “agent” and left her life behind. She know of the Harper initiative. She could not wait.

What Adella didn’t know was that Canada’s “Every women, Every Child” initiative didn’t include her, her pregnancy, or her daughter once in Canada. Quite the opposite in fact.

At the same time as implementing this program overseas in developing countries, Canada’s same Conservative Government, through Citizenship and Immigration Canada quietly inserted an array of “viral stumbling blocks” designed to baffle, complexify and impede refugee claimants prompt access to IFH healthcare coverage upon arrival. Adella and her children’s safe access to maternity and child care here in Canada was thus delayed 6 weeks when Canada Border Service Agents – employees of CIC – prevented her from claiming refugee status at their time of arrival. She was directed ( forced) to make the claim at a CIC office once she could get an “appointment”. During this wait time she delivered without health insurance – entering the hospital as an emergency delivery. Infant and maternal mobility and mortality rise at leaf 3 times in such circumstances.

Libby arrived here as a Temporary Foreign ( domestic) Worker 4 years ago. She worked as a domestic for 2 years, covered for healthcare. That was at least until she was fired when she became pregnant and could get another job. Her health coverage under the program was cancelled. She delivered without health coverage, requiring an emergency C section after entering the ER in labour.

All requests for the next 2 years to stay in Canada were denied. She is now here with an application submitted for humanitarian and compassionate reasons. A decision will come a number of months down the line. Her current pregnancy requires a C-section. A vaginal birth will jeopardize her life and her pregnancy. She was denied access to a planned safe C section because she did not have the money to pay the hospital what they demanded for an operating room booking. She went into labour, then the ER and then to an emergency C section.

Figures from the United Nations show a devastating reality – 300,000 women worldwide, almost all from developing countries die annually, unnecessarily from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Some 6.5 million children surviving childbirth die daily world wide in developing countries– the vast majority in their fist month of life.

Canada, under Stephen Harper’s government has initiated the Every Women, Every Child project in an effort to ameliorate this growing crisis in the developing world. That’s good.

If only Mr Harper would apply his program to new Canadian refugees like Adella and Libby, and other new Canadian women and children his Government has so quietly and callously denied healthcare to.