November 24th, 2020
The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association strongly endorses the recently launched Healthcare for All Manitoba Campaign.
Healthcare for All Manitoba is launching a campaign calling on the province of Manitoba to immediately provide truly universal health care coverage to all residents of Manitoba. Many in Manitoba are not covered by provincial health care including migrant workers with work permits of less than one year, international students, many refugee claimants, and undocumented migrants. The digital launch will feature community advocates and migrants with lived experience highlighting how the campaign demands will protect the health of everyone in the province to ensure the health of all.
“Healthcare is a basic human right and a fundamental part of responsible public health,” says Dorota Blumczynska, Executive Director of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba and President of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “The pandemic has made it clear: we must ensure everyone in Manitoba has access to health care to protect the health and safety of all who live in the province.”
Currently, many uninsured people will avoid seeking health care due to fear of being charged for the care and some will fear possible detention and deportation if their immigration status is reported to the authorities. Without adequate health care coverage if they are ill, many will feel pressured to continue to work due to financial circumstances.
“Many migrant workers have proven to be the essential workers needed in our province during the pandemic, but they are also at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and becoming ill while working,” says Diwa Marcelino, who supports migrant workers through Migrante Manitoba. “Providing comprehensive health coverage to all migrants, regardless of status, is essential to ensuring the rights and health of all our community members.”
In 2018 the Province cut off international students from accessing public healthcare in Manitoba. The Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba points out that the annual cost of delivering this healthcare coverage was only 3.1 million compared to the $400+ million dollars international students contribute to Manitoba’s economy each year. The loss of healthcare combined with even-more drastically increasing tuition fees puts international students’ well-being at risk while also eliminating any incentive for future students to choose Manitoba as a place to study.
The Healthcare for All coalition has a core set of demands. It calls on the province to immediately provide comprehensive and free healthcare coverage to all residents of Manitoba regardless of immigration status. Second, the coalition urges the province to develop and implement a multilingual communication campaign to inform all those currently without provincial health care coverage about the availability of free COVID testing and treatment without a health card. Third, this means the province must inform all healthcare institutions and providers of expanded coverage for those without health insurance. Finally, the coalition calls on the province to create and enforce strict confidentiality policies and provide staff with training to protect the safety of residents with precarious immigration status and ensure they can access health care without jeopardizing their ability to remain in Canada.
“I know people in my community who have lost their immigration status for a variety of reasons and become undocumented,” says Maggie Yeboah of African Communities of Manitoba Inc. “The fear of living without health coverage during a pandemic, combined with the fear of risking their ability to stay in Canada if they do seek help, is overwhelming. We need to respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people in our community and ensure the right to access healthcare without fear.”
Healthcare for All Manitoba is a new coalition bringing together organizations who support migrants in a range of areas and see the need for equitable healthcare access. Founding organizations include: Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM), Manitoba Association of Community Health (MACH), Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations (MANSO), Migrante Manitoba, Canadian Federation of Students, CUPE Manitoba, Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, Immigration Partnership Winnipeg, and the Manitoba Health Coalition.
For more information on the coalition’s demands and the most current list of partners, visit www.cfsmb.ca/campaigns/healthcareforall.