Wednesday 8 May 2024

Community Victory: Refugee Claimants' Canadian Babies Get Health Care from Birth

For over five years, Sanctuary Health with the solidarity and support of other migrant organizations and allies has been calling on the Ministry of Health and the Medical Services Commission to end the Wait Period for MSP Coverage for people coming from outside of Canada, people who have recently obtained immigration status and newborn babies. Most provinces do not have a wait period for people in these circumstances. On March 1st 2020, Ontario and BC both removed their wait periods. Only BC rushed to bring back their wait period on July 31st 2020.

We have repeatedly highlighted one of the clearest examples of the unreasonableness of this policy: that BC puts newborn babies in the wait period including, until recently, the babies of refugee claimants. This week, the Ministry of Health informed us that effective February 20, 2024, babies born in BC to refugee claimants with IFHP coverage may be provided with date of birth MSP coverage, regardless of the parent’s own eligibility for MSP.

We are thrilled for pregnant refugee claimants and refugee claimants who are new parents! Hospital finance departments are surely also happy that they will no longer need to chase new refugee claimant families for money that they don’t have and won’t need to sell the debts to Collections companies at a loss. We will not stop fighting until everyone in our communities including all newborn babies have access to health care without fear of debt or deportation

Instructions from the Ministry of Health regarding registering the newborn babies of refugee claimants for MSP when their parents are not eligible for MSP

Effective February 20, 2024, babies born in BC to refugee claimants with IFHP coverage may be provided with date of birth MSP coverage, regardless of the parent’s own eligibility for MSP.

To demonstrate IFHP coverage, parents must submit one of the following:

  •     Acknowledgement of Claim and Notice to Return for Interview letter (AOC)
  •     Refugee Protection Claimant Document (RPCD) (with photo)
  •     Temporary Document for Lost/Stolen Refugee Protection Claimant Document (RPCD)
  •     Interim Federal Health Program Certificate (IFHC) (with or without a photo)
To enrol a child born to a refugee claimant with IFHP coverage, a parent or guardian must submit a BC Application for Health and Drug Coverage paper form on the child’s behalf using only the child’s personal information as the applicant. The application may be found online at Apply for B.C. health and drug coverage - Province of British Columbia ( and must include:
  •     Signature of the parent(s);
  •     A copy of the child’s birth certificate;
  •     A copy of the parent’s immigration document (one of the IFHP documents listed above must be submitted for date of birth coverage to be provided); and,
  •     Parent or guardian contact information on a separate piece of paper.
Health Insurance BC requires parental or guardianship information in order to communicate regarding minor account holders.

Wednesday 18 October 2023

Vigil to Support Families Turned Away from Coquitlam School District; Renew Call for a Sanctuary School Policy

See Media Coverage of the vigil here: 

Coquitlam, BC: On October 17th, 2023, members of the Tri-Cities Amnesty International group and the Sanctuary Health collective organized a candlelight vigil for the Right to Education outside the Coquitlam School Board’s next meeting. The vigil was to support families turned away from the Coquitlam School District like Priscila Hurtado’s family.

 The Tri-Cities Amnesty International group first reached out to the Coquitlam School Board about the need to establish a Sanctuary Schools policy in October 2019. They most recently presented to the Coquitlam School Board in May 2023 and are disappointed and frustrated that families are still facing the same experiences. 


  • New Westminster (SD40) adopted its Sanctuary Schools Policy on May 30 2017. The Central Okanagan School District (SD23) passed a Sanctuary Schools Policy on October 13 2022. Vancouver (SD39) in 2021 and Surrey (SD36) in 2023 changed their registration procedures so that children do not have to provide information about their citizenship/immigration status to register in schools. On September 25 2023, Greater Victoria School District (SD61) passed their Sanctuary Schools Policy
  •  On April 23 2022, the BC School Trustees Association (BCTSA) nearly unanimously passed a motion that the BCSTA develop a template to help Boards of Education remove barriers to registration for students with precarious or no immigration status in their Districts; and that the BCSTA calls on the BC Ministry of Education to remove barriers for students with precarious or no immigration status. 
  • On September 2 2022, the Deputy Minister of Education remitted directives to school districts that “When reporting students for operating grant funding, boards are not to exclude students of families who are B.C. residents and may have unresolved federal immigration status. Districts should not be putting up unnecessary barriers for undocumented families, particularly onerous requests for documentation that might prevent a family from enrolling their child.” 

Friday 15 September 2023

Vancouver to Join Thousands of Migrants & Supporters Marching in 15 Cities on Eve of Parliament’s Return For Equal Rights

Permanent resident status for all migrants will ensure a fair society and help everyone in Canada thrive. 

WHEN: September 17, 4pm
WHERE: Outside the Canada Border Services Agency office at 300 West Georgia Street
WHAT/VISUALS: Rally including signs, speeches, banners and a piƱata

Vancouver, September 17- The eve of Parliament’s return will be marked by a weekend of massive demonstrations and actions in 8 provinces to call on Prime Minister Trudeau to implement his promise of equality and fairness in the upcoming Parliamentary session. All migrants, including undocumented people, migrant workers, students, refugees, and families, must have permanent resident status. These actions are coming shortly after the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery called Canada’s temporary migration streams a “breeding ground” for exploitation. 

Hundreds of thousands of people in Canada suffer from poverty, fear, and exploitation because they are denied permanent resident status. Migrants care for parents and children, work in factories, keep our hospitals running, and build homes, but they are excluded from the same rights that others in Canada take for granted. Prime Minister Trudeau promised change when he mandated permanent resident status for migrant students and workers; as well as undocumented people (termed regularization) in December 2021. No program has been implemented in the 20 months since. 

Permanent resident status for all will add billions of dollars to the public purse per year through contributions by employers who currently don’t pay taxes when they hire undocumented people; improve overall health outcomes as hundreds of thousands of people will access primary care and not end up in emergency rooms; and end the downward pressure on wages and working conditions caused by employer exploitation of migrants. It will also allow migrants to lay down deeper roots, participate more fully in society, and gain labour mobility to fill jobs in industries and regions where workers are needed. 

Details of Migrant Rights Network Actions in Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Montreal, Ottawa, St Catharines, St Johns, Sudbury, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Whitehorse and Winnipeg: 


  • Migrant Rights Network’s proposal for a comprehensive regularization program that is uncapped will grant permanent resident status (not temporary permits) and will not exclude anyone: 
  • All migrant-led organizations in Canada, as well as over 500 civil society, labour and environmental organizations, are calling for full and permanent immigration status for all migrants in the country and permanent resident status for all on arrival in the future.
  • Over 33,000 people have sent messages to the Cabinet in support of permanent resident status for all:
  • These actions are endorsed by over 200 organizations including major labour bodies like Unifor and Ontario Federation of Labour; environmental groups like Climate Action Network and David Suzuki Foundation, faith bodies like the United Church of Canada and civil society groups like Oxfam Canada. 


Monday 27 March 2023

Campaign Against the Three Month Wait In The Media

 Momentum against BC's dangerous and costly wait period for health care is building with two detailed articles coming out in March. Sign the petition here:

'A huge barrier for newcomers': Universality of B.C.'s health care questioned Gordon McIntyre 14 Mar 2023 Vancouver Sun

“The wait-coverage period is a huge barrier for newcomers. People often have been struggling for a long time to get status in Canada, and finally they get status and then end up without an MSP number.
“That leads to people being afraid to contact or access health-care providers, avoiding seeking coverage until their conditions have worsened to the point where they’re ending up in our emergency rooms."
“(B.C.’s three-month wait period) in a way is a privatization of the system, forcing people to get private insurance during this time. It definitely undermines universality.

How Medical Bills Can Slam a Newcomer to BC Moira Wyton 22 Mar 2023 

“Pregnancy can’t wait, and there is an abundance of evidence that this policy isn’t working and is actually harming racialized women in particular,” said Dr. Shira Goldenberg, director of research education with the Centre for Gender & Sexual Health Equity - CGSHE. “But the government is still relying on these fear-based tropes about migration and resources.”
Having to wait or pay for care “can be jarring for people when Canada has a reputation for universal health care,” said Dr. Mei-ling Wiedmeyer, a family doctor and reproductive health researcher. “But anyone who works on the ground can see that’s not the case in reality.”


Thursday 29 December 2022

Joint Statement Regarding Christmas Day Death in Detention

We are angry and saddened, but not surprised, to learn of the death on Christmas Day of another person in Canada Border Services Agency detention. This death took place at the newly built immigration detention centre in Surrey. As long as the CBSA continues to detain migrants, deaths in detention will continue.

In the CBSA's statement, which does not share any information about the cause of death, the CBSA said that “The health and safety of those in our care is of paramount importance to the CBSA. We take this responsibility very seriously.” The interactions that we see of CBSA with migrants every day show that their statement is a lie: the only thing that is of paramount importance to CBSA is meeting their cruel quotas by deporting migrants as quickly as possible.

This death on Christmas Day exposes the numbers of immigrants, including children, who are detained in Canada. Between April 2019 and March 2020, there were 8,825 people detained between the ages of 15 and 83. In the same period, another 136 children were “housed” in detention with their detained parents, including 73 under age 6. Since 2016, Canada has held more than 300 immigration detainees for longer than a year because there is no legal limit to the length of time the CBSA can detain immigrants in Canada.

Since 2000, at least 17 people have died in immigration detention, with at least six deaths since 2016. In 2014, on Coast Salish Territories, the community had to fight for an inquest to get all the details of the death of Lucia Vega Jimenez, a Mexican national without status in Canada: from the transit police office who called CBSA because she had an accent, to the CBSA officer who introduced himself as a “liaison” and used her answers against her in her detention review hearing, to the private security guard playing video games while she died.

These tragedies reinforce our strong commitment and our resolve to fight for an end to immigration detentions and deportations for good. We join the voices of End Immigration Detention Network, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Canada who have called for an end to immigration detention. In our Campaign for Regularization and Status for All, we also raise the calls to Stop the Detentions! Stop the Deportations!

Migrating is not a crime

No more detentions and incarcerations

No more deportaciĆ³ns

No more deaths

29 December 2022 

Signed by: 

Migrante BC
Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (RAMA)Isla
Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (RAMA) Okanagan
Sanctuary Health
Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights (CDWCR) 


Monday 12 December 2022

Federal Court Orders Stay of Deportation

Claudia, Lety, Andres and Isaias are relieved and elated to hear that the Federal Court has ordered the government to stay their deportation, which was scheduled for December 19th. We are thrilled to know that the family can now celebrate Christmas with their friends, family and community.

We are so grateful for the immense solidarity shown by the community over the past six months; the letters and emails that continue to pour in are still so important in supporting the family's ongoing applications for permanent residence. The family would like to share their immense gratitude for Molly Joeck, their Lawyer at Edelmann & Co. Law Offices, Watari Counseling and Support Services, the Hospital Employees Union, Indigenous community members, pastors and churches, friends and community members for their continued support.

La lucha sigue for Status for All, as we fight to ensure no other family has to go through the same stressful and terrifying situation!

Join us as Sanctuary Health will be supporting the Committee for Caregivers and Domestic Workers Rights's rally for Status for All on Sunday December 18 at 9:30 am at 700 Hamilton St in Vancouver (outside the Canada Border Services Agency's office).

Saturday 26 November 2022

Press Release: Community Shares Love and Support for Family Facing Deportation Before Christmas

Vancouver --- Stacks of over 1000 Christmas cards piled up in St James Anglican Church on Saturday at an event to show support for the Bazan family, Leticia Bazan Porto (“Lety”), her sons Andres Obed Liberato Bazan (“Andres”) and Isaias Alain Liberato Bazan (“Isaias”), her daughter-in-law Claudia Alejandra Zamorano Gomez (“Claudia”) and her 9 year old granddaughter, who face deportation on December 19th.

Friends, co-workers, and family shared heartfelt tributes to the family- sharing how much they mean to the community. They appealed to Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, to ensure a positive decision on the family’s ongoing application for permanent residence based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and to implement a broad and inclusive regularization program so that other people do not end up in the same situation. This family has been in Canada and contributing meaningfully to our communities for over 5 years, and the granddaughter has done all her schooling in Canada.

Last week, the family’s lawyer provided a 945-page request to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) asking that their removal be deferred until a decision on their application for permanent residence could be made. This would allow the family to continue their life in Canada while they wait for this decision. The CBSA refused the request in less than 24 hours. Meanwhile, the family has been waiting for a decision on their application for permanent residence for over a year.

"Canada should uphold their reputation of being welcoming to refugees and migrants and keep Lety and her family here,” said Ingrid Mendez, Executive Director of Watari Counselling & Support Services Society. “Every single day, Lety offers her skills, gifts, and time making dignified and healthy food for the community. She spends her time making sure people are safe, having their basic needs met- how can she be disregarded and disposed of so easily?”

Claudia is also serving our communities as a health care worker at Royal Columbian Hospital, and her union is calling for the government to let the family stay. “At a time when our healthcare system is in critical need of experienced health care workers, we should not be turning away those who have contributed their skills and valuable experience to help protect Canadians. Let Claudia and her family stay!" said Betty Valenzuela, Financial Secretary of the Hospital Employees' Union.

“This family is very important to our community, we value and love them very much. They deserve to stay with us in Canada. A deportation would be a threat to their life,” said Father Jose Rocha, Pastor, Iglesia de Dios de la Profeci.

“Every year in December, we notice the CBSA increasing their activities as they try to meet their annual deportation quotas,” says Omar Chu, a member of Sanctuary Health. “The holiday spirit is about communities coming together to care for each other in reciprocity and solidarity, it’s not about CBSA deporting families to get their Christmas bonus.”

Sanctuary Health is a grassroots community group. We deploy direct action, movement-building, community-engagement, and direct support strategies to advocate for access to services for all regardless of immigration status or documentation. We are committed to building cross-sectoral alliances of mutual support to advance the migrant-justice movement on unceded Coast Salish territories.

Watari was developed in 1986 as a response to the lack of services and programs for high-risk street involved youth in Vancouver. Since then, Watari has helped thousands of people in the downtown eastside and the surrounding communities, through several youth and community programs as well as through our counselling team. Over the years, Watari has developed important programs not only for youth, but for everyone needing support here in the community, including Indigenous people and migrant workers. Our Latin American Group and Vietnamese Community Kitchen have become important staples in the community as well. Although much has changed over the years, Watari continues to be a safe and supportive place for the people in the community. Today, Watari has 13 essential programs made possible by the dedicated staff, and amazing volunteers and community partners!

The Hospital Employees’ Union is B.C.’s largest health care union with more than 50,000 members working across the health care team in hospitals, care homes, community services, First Nation’s health organizations, and in the health logistics and supply. Sanctuary Health is a grassroots community group that deploys direct action, movement-building, community-engagement, and direct support strategies to advocate for access to services for all regardless of immigration status or documentation.