Peterborough Examiner

By TAYLOR BRODERICK, Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Advocates rallied together at the Peterborough Square on Tuesday to support the new provincewide OHIP for All campaign.

The campaign calls on the Ontario government to provide health care coverage for all residents of Ontario, regardless of what their immigration status might be.

The rally took place at the corner of George and Simcoe streets with more than a dozen people from the Peterborough area picketing. Many people passing by stopped to hear the chanting and see the passion of the supporters from all ages.

This rally was one of seven being held in cities across the province. The campaign, which was supported by the End Immigration Detention Network and the Council of Canadians, is meant to urge the government to stop denying health care to an estimated 200,000 immigrants, temporary foreign workers, international students, humanitarian claimants, non-status people and even returning Canadian citizens.

Maddy Macnab, from the End Immigration Detention Network in Peterborough, says the rally is a provincewide call for action to help residents in need who were denied the basic health care Ontario prides itself on.

“We’re here to raise awareness and demand that the government take steps to extend coverage to these people,” Macnab said. “There is precedence on a municipal level for cities to provide services regardless of status and this is something that Ontario should be able to step-up and do. There is public pressure and interest in us stepping-up to do it.”

Cutbacks were made to refugee health benefits in 2012 by the Conservative government. In February of this year, the Liberal government stated that full coverage would be re-instated to refugees living in Canada.

The detention network said immigrants in Ontario still face a lot of hardships when needing care and many choose to delay seeking it and end up suffering as a result.

Peterborough resident Peter Flynn, who happened to be walking by the rally, decided to stop and show his support.

Flynn, who claims he’s been without a doctor for more than 14 years, says there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to improve the state of Ontario’s health care.

“I know a lot of people, there’s thousands of people without doctors. It’s getting a lot worse. I feel like (the government) doesn’t care about us at all,” Flynn said.

Trent University student Melissa Baldwin says she wants to use her privilege as a born Canadian citizen to advocate for others who can’t get the same access and benefits she does.

“It’s remarkable that as a country and as a province we’re able to talk about ourselves as being so kind and open and accepting while at the same time we’re denying fundamental human rights to hundreds of thousands of people living here,” Baldwin said.

The OHIP for All campaign is a coalition of more than 400 health care professionals, labour groups and immigration advocates. Rallies were also held Tuesday in several Ontario cities including Toronto, Hamilton, Mississauga, Ottawa, London and Kitchener.

The group also issued an open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne and Health Minister Eric Hoskins asking for OHIP eligibility for new immigrants, temporary foreign workers, international students and others as soon as they arrive in the province.

Under the current system, new arrivals over the age of 16 face a waiting period of up to three months before getting OHIP and temporary foreign workers without contracts don’t get coverage.

The coalition says that, in that time, people can run up large health care costs, become severely ill or die because they cannot access health care.

Hoskins said he would take the group’s requests under advisement, adding that new Canadians are eligible for some health services through community health centres and that refugees have health coverage under the Interim Federal Health program.

Speaking at a rally in front of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in Toronto, a spokeswoman for the coalition said extending OHIP benefits to all people living in Ontario was a human rights issue.

“People should no longer be denied access to care, they should not be turned away from emergency rooms, they should not be asked for large amounts of money,” Dr. Ritika Goel said.

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