December 18 2018
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Ginette P. Taylor, Minister of Health
The Honourable Ahmed D. Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
CC: Mr. Dainius Pūras, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau & Ministers Taylor and Hussen,
We are writing to you today as members of the health community to urge your action on a crucial matter pertaining to health and human rights. You will no doubt be aware that the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) recently issued a landmark decision condemning Canada for denying access to essential health care on the basis of immigration status based on the case of Nell Toussaint (1).
Nell is a 49-year-old woman from Grenada who has been living in Canada since 1999, and who suffered significant negative health consequences as a result of being denied access to essential health care services. The UNHRC’s decision condemns Canada’s existing discriminatory policies, and finds Canada to be in violation of both the right to life, as well as the right to equality and freedom from discrimination.
Based on its review of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UNHRC has declared that Canada must provide Nell with adequate compensation for the significant harm she suffered (1,2). As well, they have called on Canada to report on its review of national legislation within a 180-day period, in order “to ensure that irregular migrants have access to essential health care to prevent a reasonably foreseeable risk that can result in loss of life.” (1) The United Nations Special Rapporteur has pushed for the same, calling on the government “to protect health-related rights to life, security of the person, and equality of individuals and groups in situations of vulnerability”. (3)
Nell is one of an estimated half million people in Ontario alone who are denied access to health coverage and care on the basis of their immigration status, putting their health at risk (4). As members of Canada’s health community, we are appalled by the details of this case as well as its broad implications, and call on the government to:
1. Comply with the UNHRC’s order to review existing laws and policies regarding health care coverage for irregular migrants.
2. Ensure appropriate resource allocation, so that all people in Canada are provided universal and equitable access to health care services, regardless of immigration status.
3. Provide Nell Toussaint with adequate compensation for the significant harm she has suffered as a result of not receiving essential health care services.