“Refugees in Canada have poorer access to health care than in refugee camps”

January 25th 2013

The voices grow louder. They grow in numbers and strength. The efforts of CIC ( Kenney, Pavlich) to marginalize and vilify Canadian doctors and nurses speaking up, are as predicted, failing. The truth is a wonderful value. Besides never having to remember what you said, it has a reassuring way of always coming out.

“Refugees in Canada have poorer access to health care than in refugee camps” 


This disturbing op ed (Toronto Star January 19, 2012), from frontline health professionals who volunteer with Doctors Without Borders paints a disgraceful and appalling picture of a home grown Canadian tragedy. Some of them are now volunteering here in Canada – treating refugees.
This shameful and outrageous situation is the direct result of stumbling blocks crafted by Federal and Provincial politicians. Immigrants and refugees new to Canada deserve a fighting chance. Canada’s refugees confront enough obstacles without being abandoned to fend for themselves with untreated illness and huge medical bills. All persons who need it, have a right to medical care – no conditions.

In Canada, we are all from somewhere else. Canada is defined by, built by its newness. Everything we enjoy — our democracy, our freedoms, our heritage, our culture, and our prosperity we owe in large part to those new to Canada. Every generation, since the first new Canadians arrived has been marked by its waves of new arrivals seeking opportunity and freedom. Our time, our generation is no different.

This remains the noble and defining ideal upon which our Nation has been built. We invite immigrants. We cannot grow without them. And yet, upon arrival we leave many of them medically uninsured and vulnerable. We open our hearts to refugees because we are a compassionate Nation. The ideals and values of freedom, fairness, compassion and dignity define us – or did? We are moved by the hardships and tyranny our refugees confront in far away lands. We admire their spirit to free themselves and bring their children and families to the safety and opportunity Canada affords.

And yet after surviving war, disease and famine in their native lands, thousands of New Canadian refugee claimants find themselves once again in harms way, in Canada. When they become ill or confront a medical emergency current Canadian and Provincial policies deny many of them access to public healthcare at the very moment they need it most.
It is hard to comprehend that Canada is now more dangerous to our refugees than the country and abuse from which they fled. How inhumane are we?
Paul Caulford, MD
Medical Director, The Volunteer Clinic for Medically Uninsured Immigrants and Refugees, Toronto 
The CVC  HumanKind     “Canada Means the World to Us”  (c)

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