May 7th, 2013
Today, in the Toronto Star, an edited version of the following submission appeared in support of healthcare access for all – for Toronto and Canada’s landed immigrants, refugee claimants, sponsored persons, and all other medically uninsured newcomers to Canada…..
Healthy City? City Council can make that a reality on May 7th.
On May 7th, Tuesday Toronto City Council has the opportunity to right a long standing and unhealthy social injustice that plagues and harms tens of thousands Torontonians. Canada’s disgraceful denial of healthcare equity and eligibility to our landed immigrants and some Canadian citizens caught in Ontario’s 3 month with for OHIP, to refugee claimants waiting for or denied Interim Federal Health, and sponsored members in the family class, many in the foreign worker and student visa program, children and youth new to Canada, or those on our streets and homeless who have no documents.
On May 7th City Council will debate and vote on recommendations affirming the uninsured receive healthcare access. This motion passed unanimously at the Toronto Board of Health on April 29th, chaired by councillor Mihevc.
Who will they be voting for? Mike for one. He came to Canada 26 years ago. He came in the foreign worker program. Mike picked our tobacco and tomatoes – for 22 straight years. He had OHIP – until he suffered disabling back pain. He missed his first day at work in 20 years. When Mike couldn’t work, his OHIP was cancelled, leaving him unable to get medical treatment for the kidney stones causing his pain and damaging his kidney. When he appealed to Immigration Canada, they told Mike “to go home”. Mike told them “Canada is my home now”.
Tiny Maria and her brave mother Gladys for another. Maria is just 4 weeks old. Gladys came here from Africa to prevent her yet unborn baby girl from certain Female Genital Mutilation (circumcision). Gladys made her refugee claim. She was still waiting for healthcare when Maria was born. Maria was denied OHIP papers because her mother did not have refugee claim approval yet. This contravenes the rules, but it happens. Maria became ill at 4 weeks, as newborns can do. Mom has a $5000 plus hospital bill she is paying off, $10 at a time, for 20 years.
A host of evidence based studies in the scientific literature clearly confirm it is much more expensive to a health system to deny care than to provide it up front. Tuesday’s vote is a no brainer. The current situation is unhealthy for everyone.
Toronto is a robust, bustling city built by and lived in by newcomers. It is Canada’s “Port of Call”. Toronto and the GTA receives more new Canadians by both percentage and overall numbers than any other city. These countless medically uninsured neighbours work (often under the table) supporting a robust economy, supporting a healthcare system we enjoy but deny them access to. What sense does that make? What sense does it make to leave thousands without care for pneumonia, broken limbs, influenza, tuberculoses, appendicitis or cancer? If a fire breaks in their motel strip room on Kingston Road, would we not send the fire trucks until they paid up front? Or would we send them a bill after? How are life threatening illnesses any different?
The United Nations has referred to Toronto as North America’s most ethno-racially diverse city. On May 7th City Councillors have the chance to make it North America’s most healthy city – for all of us!