The government removed international students and their dependents from accessing public healthcare in Manitoba. The change took effect in September 2018 with no consultation from students.
Healthcare For All, Regardless of Immigration Status
Healthcare is a basic human right and a fundamental part of responsible public health. Many people in Manitoba are not covered by provincial health care: migrant workers with work permits of less than one year, international students, and those undocumented residents who have lost their status for a variety of reasons.
Racialized people and communities are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, mainly due to the social and economic conditions which leave them vulnerable while performing essential work in a variety of industries in Manitoba. Without adequate health care coverage, if they are ill, many who are uninsured will avoid seeking health care due to fear of being charged for the care, and/or the fear of possible detention and deportation if their immigration status is reported to the authorities.
Private health insurance is not a substitute for public health insurance. Private insurance plans available to most migrant workers and international students are paid for by the worker or student. They do not provide coverage for all of the potential health needs covered by public health coverage. Individuals are required to pay upfront for health expenses without a guarantee that they will be covered and wait weeks for reimbursement.
According to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, denying essential health care to undocumented irregular migrants is a violation of their rights. Jurisdictions across Canada and the world have adopted Access Without Fear policies to prevent sharing personal health information or immigration status with immigration authorities and to give uninsured residents the confidence to access health care. 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.
- To immediately provide comprehensive and free healthcare coverage to all residents of Manitoba regardless of immigration status, including refugee claimants, migrant workers, international students, dependent children of temporary residents, and undocumented residents. This must be permanently enshrined in legislation.
- To urge the Minister of Health to undertake a multilingual communication campaign to provide information on expanded coverage to all affected residents.
- To urge the Minister of Health to inform all healthcare institutions and providers of expanded coverage for those without health insurance and the details on how necessary policy and protocol changes will be implemented.
- To urge the Minister of Health 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.