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Manitoba needs equal health care for international students, migrant workers: coalition

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A coalition of 15 community organizations in Manitoba says the province should provide equal access to health care for all and they want to keep that 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and undocumented immigrants have not had access to publicly funded universal health care in Manitoba since it was repealed in 2018, but the Health Care for All coalition is pushing for its reinstatement.

“The government should stop treating people as numbers for economic purposes, but see value in us and expand health coverage in us,” Judith Oviosun, provincial campaign coordinator for the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Student Federation, said in a statement. conference Thursday.

Oviosun, who is from Nigeria, graduated from the University of Manitoba earlier this year. She had access to publicly funded health care as a student before the amendment of the Health Services Insurance Act in 2018, which the province said would save more than $ 3 million a year.

But since then, students have felt like “light targets and money cows” of the Manitoba government, Oviosun said.

“This is just simple discrimination and we can see this policy as it is, as racist, because the government is choosing and choosing alone which Manitobans should have access to health care and who should not.”

She is not the only international student or migrant worker who feels isolated from the provincial government.

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

In August, she underwent a CT scan and was told she would receive the test result within a few days. She finally got that result two months later.

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

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

“It makes me less inclined to want to go [get] “I sometimes take care of the things I need to check,” she said.

“Like now, maybe I should make my appointment with the dentist, but [those are] things that make it very inconvenient for us. “Healthcare is not accessible and makes things really difficult.”

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

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 care 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 with a work permit for more than a year can have access to health care immediately. Workers with a work permit that covers less than a year must find their health coverage and is usually limited to emergency procedures, says Diwa Marcelino, an organizer with Migrante Manitoba, which protects migrant workers.

He said they are less likely to complain about harassment, working conditions and discrimination, for fear it could result in job loss, job status and health care.

“Migrant workers need health care as a right. They do not need health care to be placed on their head like a hanging carrot so that they can shut up and be calm and continue to be exploited by employers. their, “said Marcelino.

“We need health care for everyone and we need it now.”

Rico Manaloto came to 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 he was fired in June and has struggled to find new employment.

“There are many companies for which I have applied [to work] because they called me to work with them, but unfortunately they do not allow me because my work permit is still tied in the name of a previous employer “, said Manaloto.

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

Manaloto now also worries about the expiration of health insurance when his permit expires in August 2022.

“I am calling on the government for my application 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,” said Manaloto.

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

Health Care for All has started apetition on the website of the Canadian Student Federation, which had nearly 500 signatures as of Wednesday evening. The NDP opposition committed itself to constantly reading the petition to the Manitoba legislature in an effort to push the government to turn the clock.

In a statement sent by email to the CBC, a provincial spokesman said Manitoba is “a destination of choice for many people” and “is very affordable on many fronts”.

The province is “committed to 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 that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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