RNAO joins in rallies to defend health coverage for refugees

TORONTO, June 12, 2015 /CNW/ - Ontario's nurses stand united with health professionals nationwide in pressing the federal government to abandon its reckless and expensive fight to rob refugee claimants of their right to health coverage.

On June 15, registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students will represent the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) at rallies across the province as part of the fourth-annual National Day of Action against cuts to refugee health services.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government announced it was slashing the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) in 2012, eliminating access to vision, dental, drug and other essential health benefits for refugee claimants. RNAO and other health organizations have since advocated to reverse the move, and in 2014, the Federal Court of Canada deemed the cuts "cruel and unusual" and ordered that IFHP coverage be reinstated.

Forced to return health benefits to refugees, the government appealed the decision, and the court is scheduled to hear arguments later this year. RNAO will bring the expertise of nurses to the proceedings, having been granted intervener status in the case.

"It's unfathomable that the Harper government continues to defend this indefensible position and ignore the advice of health professionals," says RNAO Chief Executive Officer Doris Grinspun. "We are grateful the court mandated that coverage be reinstated, because nurses witnessed first-hand the harm caused by the loss of essential health benefits. It hurt the most vulnerable amongst us, and by extension us all, and the moral fabric of our country. Nurses know it, physicians know it, the Federal Court knows it – why won't Prime Minister Harper accept it?"

Changes to IFHP were touted as cost-saving measures, but evidence indicates they instead made the health system less efficient and increased the financial burden on taxpayers. And as of January 2015, the federal government had spent more than $1.4 million in legal fees to defend the cuts.

"Given the human and financial costs of this misguided policy, it's time for the Conservative government to come to its senses and drop this appeal," says Vanessa Burkoski, president of RNAO. "As Canadians, we take care of our neighbours, regardless of where they come from – we can't let this government change that."

Nurses will be speaking at the following National Day of Action events, organized by Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care:

  • Brampton: Norma Nicholson will speak in front of the Chinguacousy Branch of Brampton Public Library, inside the Bramalea Civic Centre, 150 Central Park Dr.) at 12 p.m.
  • Guelph: Helen Tindale will speak at Guelph Community Health Centre (176 Wyndam St. N.) at 1 p.m.
  • Hamilton: Sriti Mizan will speak at the Citizen and Immigration office (55 Bay St. N.) at 1 p.m.
  • Kingston: Yessica Rivera Belsham will speak at Springer Market Square (corner of King and Market Streets) at 11 a.m.
  • Kitchener: Larissa Gadsby will speak in front of city hall (200 King St. W.) at 12 p.m.
  • London: Janet Hunt will speak at Victoria Park (northwest side near Richmond St. and Central Ave.) at 12 p.m.
  • Markham: Hilda Swirsky will speak the Markham Civic Centre (101 Town Centre Blvd.) at 12 p.m.
  • Mississauga: Sarah Telfer will speak at city hall (300 City Centre Dr.) at 12 p.m.
  • Toronto: Tim Lenartowych will speak at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada offices (74 Victoria St.) at 12 p.m.


This year marks the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario's (RNAO) 90th anniversary. RNAO is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at RNAO.ca or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

SOURCE Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

For further information: Daniel Punch, Communications Officer/Writer, Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO), Phone: 416-408-5606 / 1-800-268-7199 ext. 250, dpunch@RNAO.ca


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