Statement on the Denial of Health Services on the Basis of Immigration Status

Statement on the Denial of Health Services on the Basis of Immigration Status
February 12, 2019

APH and Damayan BC Join Sanctuary Health on the National Day of Action for Health Care for Migrants!

Chandu Claver
Acting Coordinator
Damayan BC

Greetings to all!

Let me start by citing two cases:

Case #1: A female temporary foreign worker loses her employer after a year, is unable to find another job, and ends up losing her status. She suddenly develops profuse vaginal bleeding during early pregnancy and is rushed to Emergency. She is diagnosed as Threatened Abortion, and is referred to Obstetrics. However, Obstetrics would not see her as she had no health coverage, and instead discharges her. She comes back to next day with an advocate who convinces Obstetrics to treat her.
They did, but too late. She loses the baby.

Case #2: A refugee comes to British Columbia directly from his country with 3 minor children. He and the 3 children are granted political asylum but are only covered for emergency health care. For the period of nearly 12 months needed for this refugee to get settled, find a job, and finally get reasonable health coverage, his 3 minor children are virtually prohibited from getting sick.

Health is a basic human right. It is related to the essential right to life. Why does Canada have to be selective about whom to give health services to? Are immigrant workers and refugees less human than the Canadian citizen? Canada only provides health support for as long as the migrant is able to work. It does not give a hoot about them when they are not able to, for one reason or another. Countless migrant workers in Canada’s present guest worker programs, as well as refugees, have undergone much suffering due to these health policies – policies that are discriminatory and racist. This is unacceptable.
This belies the claim of the Canadian State that Canada is a strong defender of human rights.

There is a need for all of us to stand up for the basic rights of these affected migrant workers. For our part, the Filipino community here in Vancouver have decided to put up a support institution to assist these migrant workers. The Damayan Foundation for Migrant Education and Resources, otherwise known as “Damayan BC”, aims to support migrant workers and refugees of all nationalities in their struggle to stay health and well. This newly registered institution will be setting up shop soon. It is our small contribution to the concerted effort to reform Canada’s health policies.

It is the work force that builds Canada, and migrant workers, temporary workers, and refugees make up a very large part of that work force. It is only just that Canada gives them the same health services it provides its citizens.

And on this, we stand with you.

Thank you.
Chandu Claver
Acting Coordinator
Damayan BC

Open Letter To the Public Health Association of British Columbia

To the Public Health Association of British Columbia (PHABC) Board of Directors,

We are writing to express our concern regarding the PHABC’s promotion of partnerships with the business sector at the conference “Shared prosperity for health and well-being: A collaborative dialogue between business and public health” on December 4-5, 2014.

Although the stated mission of these partnerships is “creating the conditions for health and well-being for all”[1], it is well-documented that markets are incapable of providing health services equitably across and within communities and do not serve the interests of those who cannot afford to pay. Julian Tudor Hart describes this as the inverse care law, where those with the greatest healthcare needs often receive the least adequate healthcare. In 1971, he wrote that, “the market distribution of medical care is a primitive and historically outdated social form, and any return to it would further exaggerate the maldistribution of medical resources.”[2] Over 40 years later his words are more urgent than ever.


De-funding and privatization of public services have only intensified in the face of neoliberal policies, particularly in health. The private sector cannot fill these service gaps, and detracts from the responsibility of governments to provide public services in our right to health. Similarly, corporate projects of “social responsibility” are part of a growing arena of philanthro-capitalism where health is viewed as a profit-making and corporate investment opportunity.

Partnerships between the health and business sectors are fundamental contradictions: while our primary responsibility in health is to improve the health of our community, the primary aim of business is to serve shareholders in the accumulation of profit. Health care is not a commodity to be bought and sold, and we need only to look to the pharmaceutical industry to see that diseases of the poor receive little attention and monopoly over products (and services) inflates prices to unaffordable levels.

To improve health for all, we need to engage in concrete actions on the social and structural determinants of health[3]. The highly unequal distribution of power and wealth under capitalism are the main drivers of health inequities, which result in differential access to the resources that affect health, such as housing, income, and education. There can never be shared prosperity between health and business, as economic growth and wealth creation occurs at the expense of the politically and economically marginalized. This is particularly salient in British Columbia, where resource extraction is causing innumerable harms to the health of our communities and the environment. We only further entrench health inequities when our prosperity is gained at the expense of others. We can only improve the health of our communities when we work to increase their control and decision-making over their health care, resources, and their lives.

Image from Warrior Publications
Image from Warrior Publications

As health workers, researchers, and students, we urge the PHABC reconsider its direction in seeking partnerships in the private sector and to engage in critical dialogue on meaningful actions towards health equity.


The Alliance for People’s Health

Jannie Wing-sea Leung, MSc
Leah Diana, RN
Azar Mehrabadi, PhD
Thomas Warren
Martha Roberts, RM, MSc(c)

Endorsed by:

People’s Health Movement – Canada

We invite individuals and organizations to endorse this letter. Action toward equity and justice is urgent. If you or your organization would like to endorse this letter, please contact us at

[2] Hart JT. The inverse care law. The Lancet. 1971;297(7696): 405-412.
[3] World Health Organization (WHO). Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Final report of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health. Geneva (CH): WHO; 2008.