Work, Study, Pay Taxes, But Don’t Get Sick

Barriers to Health Care Based on Immigration Status

Universal access to health care is perceived as a fundamental Canadian value, with roots that trace back to the first province-wide universal health care plan in Saskatchewan in 1947. Likewise, Canada purports to be a world leader in providing a fulsome welcome to refugees and migrants, with plans to grant permanent residence status to at least half a million immigrants per year. Yet, at the same time, Canadian immigration and health policies strip hundreds of thousands of Canadian residents from accessing health care based on their immigration status.

This report by Emilio Rodriguez with Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) and Tracy Glynn with the Canadian Health Coalition discusses the inequities and varying degrees of health care access for refugees and migrants in Canada. In this report, we delve into the many barriers that refugees and migrants face in accessing health care, and the implications for both the affected individuals and Canadian society at large. The barriers we investigate include: 3-month wait periods on landed immigrants and refugees; temporary work permits that tie access to health care to a specific employer; refusal of medical care to non-status residents; unsafe working conditions; medical inadmissibility; and medical deportations.

This report exposes significant inequalities in access to health care based on immigration status. The consequences and impacts of this discrimination are far-reaching and violate fundamental human rights. We situate unequal access to health care within a larger trend in Canadian immigration of limiting access to rights and essential services, especially for lower-income and racialized migrants. In addition, we address common myths and arguments used to justify restrictions on access to health care based on immigration status. We conclude with key policy recommendations to work towards equitable access to health care.

We recommend that Provincial Governments:

  • Provide public health insurance to all migrants, untied to their employer or job status, for the entire duration of their stay in Canada. This includes extending access to health care in-between applications for individuals in maintained status.
  • Eliminate the 3-month waiting period to access public health care for landed immigrants, refugees, and temporary residents.
  • Increase credential recognition of internationally-trained health care professionals (IEHP), and provide more efficient processes to integrate them in the health care system.

Work, Study, Pay Taxes, But Don’t Get Sick
Barriers to Health Care Based on Immigration Status

By Emilio Rodriguez and Tracy Glynn

Published on 2022-12-07

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