Manitoba needs equitable health care for international students and migrant workers: coalition

A coalition of 15 local community organizations in Manitoba say the province must ensure equitable access to health care for all, and they want to keep this conversation in mind in the province’s political discourse.

International students, migrant workers, refugees and undocumented immigrants have not had access to publicly funded universal health care in Manitoba since its abolition in 2018, but the Healthcare for All coalition is pushing for its recovery .

“The government should stop treating humans like numbers for economic purposes, but see value in us and extend us health coverage,” said Judith Oviosun, provincial campaign coordinator for the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Federation of Women. students at a press conference. conference Thursday.

Oviosun, from Nigeria, graduated from the University of Manitoba earlier this year. She had access to publicly funded health care as a student before the Medicare Act was amended in 2018, which the province said would save more than $ 3 million per student. year.

But since then, students have felt like “soft targets and cash cows” for the Manitoba government, Oviosun said.

“It’s just discrimination and we can see this policy for what it is, as racist, because the government alone chooses which Manitobans should have access to health care and who should not. “

She is not the only international student or migrant worker to feel ostracized by the provincial government.

Tolani Olanrewaju, a microbiology student at U of M, has private health insurance, but she still has to pay $ 65 almost every time she comes for a medical evaluation.

In August, she had a CT scan and was told she would receive her test result in a few days. She finally received this result – two months later.

Tolani Olanrewaju, a microbiology student at the University of Manitoba, has private health insurance, but says she still has to pay $ 65 almost every time she comes for a medical evaluation. (SRC)

Olanrewaju called the clinic and was told the delay was due to his private health care.

“It makes me less inclined to want to go [get] health care, and sometimes I put off things that I should get checked out, ”she said.

“Like right now, I should probably have my dentist appointment, but [those are] things that make it very inconvenient for us. Health care is not accessible and that makes it really difficult. “

According to the province, there are currently 11,141 international students enrolled in public post-secondary institutions, and all international students are required to pay health insurance fees in addition to their tuition fees.

At U of M, international students pay $ 1,032 for a full year of coverage through the Manitoba International Student Health Plan.

The U of M says the plan “provides international students with primary health coverage, which allows them to access medical services in Canada from doctors, clinics and hospitals.”

Workers need coverage: Migrante Manitoba

Migrant workers also face their own obstacles.

Those who have a work permit for more than one year can immediately access health care. Workers with a work permit covering less than a year must find their own health coverage, and this is usually limited to emergency procedures, says Diwa Marcelino, organizer of Migrante Manitoba, which advocates for migrant workers.

He said they were less likely to complain about harassment, working conditions and discrimination, fearing it could lead to the loss of their jobs, work status and health care.

“Migrant workers have a right to healthcare. They don’t need healthcare to be put on their head like a hanging carrot to keep them quiet and continue to be exploited by their employers,” he said. declared Marcelino.

“We need universal health care and we need it now.”

Rico Manaloto arrived in Canada in 2019 from the Philippines, where he worked as an industrial butcher. He is one of more than 12,000 temporary migrant workers in Manitoba, but was laid off in June and struggled to find a new job.

“There are a lot of companies I applied to [to work] because and they called me to work with them, but unfortunately they don’t allow me because my work permit is still linked to the name of a former employer, ”Manaloto said.

He has applied for permanent residence in Canada, but his application is still being processed.

Manaloto is now also worried about the exhaustion of his health insurance when his license expires in August 2022.

“I am appealing to the government for my… request to have my permanent residence here in Canada so that I can stay here and find a job easily, and have good health insurance, public insurance,” Manaloto said.

Rico Manaloto, a migrant worker from the Philippines, is currently unemployed and worried about his health insurance running out when his work permit expires in the summer of 2022. (SRC)

Healthcare for All started a petition on the Canadian Federation of Students website, which had nearly 500 signatures on Wednesday evening. The opposition NDP has pledged to repeatedly read the petition to the Manitoba legislature in an attempt to push the government back.

In an emailed statement to CBC, a provincial spokesperson said Manitoba is “a destination of choice for many” and “is very affordable on many fronts.”

The province is “committed to ensuring the safe arrival of international students and new immigrants,” the statement said, and will work to ensure that health care remains affordable.

For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from anti-black racism to success stories within the black community – check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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