Thursday, 30 July 2020

Press Release -- Migrants Protest Removal of MSP Outside Adrian Dix’s Office

July 30th, 2020

Press Release -- Migrants Protest Removal of MSP Outside Adrian Dix’s Office

VANCOUVER BC -- Waving signs, wearing masks, and standing six feet apart, migrants and supporters protested outside Adrian Dix’s constituency office against the government’s decision to remove their health care coverage.

Pressure from communities standing up for their rights and resisting senseless health cuts has already had an impact; the night before the protest, Sanctuary Health received a phone call from the Minister of Health’s office saying that they had partially reversed a decision and would now extend MSP for people with implied status until October 2020.

“We have to protest to get the government to do the bare minimum,” says Omar Chu, a member of the Sanctuary Health collective. “We’re already constantly challenged with the government’s denial of health coverage to people based on immigration status. It’s unconscionable that in the middle of a pandemic, they are adding to that list.”

The following policies will still be removed on July 31st 2020 despite consistent warnings to the Minister of Health’s office and the Ministry of Health about the devastating effect this will have:
  • The waiver of the three month wait period. Sanctuary Health has opposed the three month wait period since long before the pandemic. Since the borders have largely closed, the three month wait period will now largely target people coming to Canada in emergency situations, Canadian-born babies whose parents are ineligible for MSP and people already in Canada who recently became eligible for MSP due to successful immigration applications.
  • MSP coverage for temporary foreign workers in BC with a permit of less than 6 months who would otherwise not be eligible for coverage under MSP. We are already seeing the devastating impact that temporary foreign worker programs--which grant extraordinary power to employers--have on workers and their health.
Health care workers were also in attendance at the rally representing over 100 health care workers who have signed a letter to Minister Dix and Dr. Henry calling for access to health care services to ALL people in BC regardless of eligibility for Medical Services Plan (MSP) or immigration status.

“The evidence is clear that the best public health policy is to ensure universal access to all essential health services,” says Natalie Blair, a registered nurse and signatory of the letter. “I’m angry and confused that the government would be moving in the opposite direction in the middle of a pandemic.”

Sanctuary Health is a grassroots community group that deploys a wide range of strategies to advocate for access to services for all regardless of immigration status or documentation.


Monday, 4 May 2020

Letter to Selina Robinson, Minister of Housing and Shayne Ramsay, CEO of BC Housing

Today Sanctuary Health sent the following letter to Selina Robinson, Minister of Housing and Shayne Ramsay, CEO of BC Housing:

Dear Selina Robinson and Shayne Ramsay,

Sanctuary Health is a grassroots community group that organizes with people with precarious immigration status--especially women of colour and children--to push for access to all services regardless of immigration status. We are writing to request support from the provincial government for families with precarious or no immigration status in BC who have lost work due to COVID 19, and are at risk of becoming homeless.

Families with precarious or no immigration status are excluded from both federal support (including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the GST/HST Credit Payment or the Canada Child Benefit) and provincial support (including the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers, BC Temporary Rental Supplement Program, the BC Climate Action Tax Credit). Many are unable to pay rent, and are being threatened and exploited by landlords. Landlords are demanding money that families simply do not have, and we are afraid that they will exploit the families’ immigration status to circumvent the eviction moratorium.

One mother in this position shares: “My biggest fear is that we are going to end up on the street, us and our two kids,” she said. “People like us, working in construction or cleaning, we are essential workers. Help in this crisis must be universal.”

The right to housing is an essential human right that should be recognized regardless of immigration status. Without financial support, people with precarious immigration status will not be able to ‘stay home’ or ‘social distance.’ Our health is interconnected - the protection of public health requires supporting all communities to be able to follow the PHO’s guidelines.

The BC Government already has programs in place, like BC Housing’s Homeless Prevention Program, that provide accessible housing support for at risk populations through community organizations who have relationships with them. We are urgently requesting that the BC Government include individuals with precarious or no immigrations status when planning support for at risk populations.

Sanctuary Health has fundraised through GoFundMe to provide food to 90 families every week, and we are partnering with Watari Counselling and Support Services Society to try to further fundraise for the upcoming rent crisis. We are also working with the Migrant Rights Network to advocate for policy change at the federal level. Despite our best efforts, this community response will not be enough to prevent homelessness without the support from the provincial government.

We are requesting to meet with you to further discuss the urgent needs of this community that we support, and strategies for how the Government of BC can address these needs.


Sanctuary Health

Friday, 20 March 2020

MEDIA RELEASE: Sanctuary Health and community partners call in British Columbia to waive the three-month wait and provide health coverage for uninsured people

Vancouver ---  This afternoon, the Ontario government announced that they are waiving the three-month waiting period for Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage and will cover the cost of COVID-19 services for uninsured people who do not meet the criteria for OHIP coverage. In wake of the ever progressing pandemic, Sanctuary Health and community partners in British Columbia are calling on their government to do the same.

Before today’s announcement, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec were the only provinces that enforced a three month wait period for people arriving or returning from outside of Canada. This practice has been a longstanding concern of Sanctuary Health as it disproportionately affects vulnerable communities. Yesterday, BC’s Medical Services Commission announced that they will waive the Coverage Wait Period for those who are returning from impacted areas and intend to stay in BC and for those that were outside of the province for longer than the allowable period to maintain MSP Coverage. This leaves important members of our community wondering if they’ve been forgotten, including:
  • Canadian babies born to parents without MSP coverage
  • Migrant workers who arrived just before the borders closed or potentially who may start arriving in groups soon
  • Newly arrived permanent residents in British Columbia
  • People who have lived in British Columbia for many years and have finally obtained permanent residence.
“We are hoping that BC will make a clear statement as Ontario has today. It would be unconscionable that in a public health crisis, if valuable members of our community would be left without health coverage,” says Omar Chu of Sanctuary Health. “The three month wait never made sense, and we are seeing the consequences of it now.”

The wait period places individuals in a limbo period, forcing them to delay seeking care until coverage is received, placing them and the broader community at risk. Sanctuary Health recently presented the Medical Services Commission a package advocating for the removal of the wait period for all new and returning BC residents coming from outside of Canada, and for ensuring access to care upon arrival. The package had support letters from over 25 organizations including health care providers, unions representing health care workers, human rights organizations, and migrant groups.

Sanctuary Health’s call to remove the wait period is a part of our broader push for access without fear – regardless of immigration status – to free, universal, and expanded healthcare. This call includes people who are undocumented, navigating the bureaucratic immigration system, international students, and people with implied status. In July 2017, the government began denying MSP coverage to people with implied status: people who applied for new work or study permits before the expiry of their previous work or study permits and are legally entitled to live and work or study in Canada.

“The current pandemic has broadly revealed what we have been arguing since we started,” Chu says. “Health care is a human right and a just society ensures that we all have it.”

Sanctuary Health is a grassroots community group that deploys a wide range of strategies to advocate for access to services for all regardless of immigration status or documentation. Read the full Three Month Wait package at

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Call to end the 3 Month Wait

Update: The government has announced that the three-month MSP coverage wait period will be waived for eligible individuals effective March 1, 2020. This temporary waiver is in place until July 31, 2020. This waiver shows both that it’s possible and beneficial to public health to remove the wait period. As a community, let’s continue to demand the complete removal of the wait period and expanding full health coverage for all!
Before the COVID-19 crisis, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec were the only provinces that deny three months of health coverage to people arriving or returning from outside of Canada. This exclusionary wait period prevents new immigrants, temporary foreign workers, returning Canadians and even some newborn Canadian babies from receiving health care coverage.

The three month wait period places individuals in a limbo period and forces them to delay seeking care until coverage is received. This is  evidenced in the increased physician billing rates in the fourth month after an immigrant’s arrival. The delay in seeking appropriate and adequate health care  results in poorer health outcomes and increased costs as individuals run the risk of developing more complex health concerns, which places a greater burden on our health care system.

The three month wait period was a policy decided on by the Medical Services Commission and they have the power to change it. Sanctuary Health sent the following package to the Medical Services Commission requesting that they take action to end the three month wait. We also requested an opportunity for Sanctuary Health to present to them about the impacts of the current policy and why it should be changed.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

VPD refusing Access without Fear for migrant communities

Where? 2120 Cambie Street
When? Thursday July 19th, Protest at 12:30 PM, Public Meeting at 1 PM
What? Join the protest, and/or sign up to speak by emailing (bcc: so that we know you are coming)

Facebook event:

At a public meeting at 1pm Thursday, the Vancouver Police Department will ask its Police Board to pass fake “Access to Police Services without Fear” guidelines, which will only create a false sense of security.

We are asking community to tell the police that their guidelines are unacceptable by protesting outside their meeting and/or by signing up to speak directly to the board.

The Vancouver Police Department should not claim to provide ‘Access without Fear,’ if it continues to be complicit in the detention of children, the separation of families and the deportation of people to countries where they will face violence and persecution. If you collaborate with Canada Border Services Agency, you’re not providing ‘Access without Fear.'

The VPD’s proposed guidelines are exactly the opposite of Access without Fear principles. They list extremely general reasons why they may choose to call CBSA. Even when they cannot justify their call under these very general reasons, they refuse to limit their officers’ ability to contact CBSA.

We have shared multiple concerns rooted in the experiences of community members, and the VPD cannot explain how their guidelines would offer any safety to these same people. For example, we received a report from a Latinx refugee who was walking down the street while wearing construction gear and was stopped by a VPD officer and asked for his immigration papers. In another case, when the VPD was called to a job site to investigate a case of missing tools, they proceeded to ask everybody on the worksite for their immigration status.

Read the Sanctuary City audit of Access without Fear policies in the City of Vancouver here: 
To read the guidelines, see page 20-21 here:

Friday, 29 June 2018

Sanctuary Health Statement 2018-06-29

As we see heartbreaking violence happening at all borders and as the municipal elections approach, several candidates and parties have been speaking out about Sanctuary City - and the city’s Access Without Fear Policy.

The current City of Vancouver Access Without Fear policy, passed in April 2016, has not been implemented under Vision Vancouver and has not led to meaningful change in the lives of migrants and their ability to feel safe accessing services. We often hear politicians say they support migrant communities but actions speak louder than words.

Sanctuary Health is a non-partisan group; we have not and will not endorse any political candidates. All candidates and community-oriented organizations must be held accountable to individuals who live in fear due to their precarious immigration status and the reality on the ground has not changed for them. The City of Vancouver has failed to allocate any resources to train staff and raise awareness about their policy, and they failed to get the Vancouver Police Department on board with the sanctuary principles. We are willing to work with anyone who will advance the Sanctuary City movement.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Still Waiting, Still Afraid: Auditing Access without Fear Policies in the City of Vancouver

Below is the Executive Summary of an Audit of Access without Fear policies in the City of Vancouver, two years since the policy was initially passed. Click here to read the full report.
It has been two years since the City of Vancouver passed its Access without Fear policy. While we’ve witnessed Vancouver’s mayor and City Council celebrate the policy as an example of the City of Vancouver’s inclusive and welcoming nature, the policy has not been implemented. Sanctuary Health Vancouver, with the support of a group of UBC students, conducted an audit on the implementation of Access without Fear policies in the City of Vancouver. This report presents the results from this audit.

The City of Vancouver committed through their policy to implement a communication and education strategy to raise awareness about the principles and policy; to develop guidelines in collaboration with affected communities to offer training to city staff; to monitor and evaluate; to implement a complaint mechanisms; to provide annual community reportbacks to share progress; and to advocate for provision of services regardless of immigration status to other orders of government and jurisdictions. Little to nothing has been done on any of these items. Furthermore, the City policy explicitly recognizes shelters as an important site for Access without Fear. However, none of the frontline workers were aware of the Access without Fear policy. Several staff stated they would have to give personal information to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers. This lack of training about the need to protect client confidentiality could prove to be most devastating to the safety and security of undocumented individuals. Furthermore, a new agreement between CBSA, the John Howard Society and the Belkin Shelter will put shelter workers in direct contact with the CBSA as the shelter will be used as a de-facto detention centre.

Council encouraged the boards of Parks and Recreation, the Vancouver Police, and the Vancouver Public Library to adopt policies which support the spirit and objectives of the City’s policy. The Vancouver Library Board passed their Access to Vancouver Public Library Services without Fear Policy in April 2016. In November 2016, The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation approved the Access to Park Board Services without Fear policy. Meanwhile, the Vancouver Police Department refuse to consider implementing Access without Fear principles.

A lack of training for frontline staff is significantly impacting Vancouver Parks and Recreation and the Vancouver Public Library’s respective policies. Only one out of twenty-seven frontline parks board staff interviewed were aware of the Access without Fear policy and most said they did not know what to do if the CBSA or police ask for information about clients. Similarly out of the twenty library locations called, only two staff confirmed knowledge of the library’s Access without Fear policy and only six were confident that they would not share information with law enforcement agencies without a warrant or legal order.

Through our journey of building relationships with individual frontline staff and service providers, Sanctuary Health has encountered great champions within the Vancouver Public Library and the Vancouver Parks Board. Because of the great trust, understanding and solidarity of these staff, more families have been able to use the libraries with their children and access leisure cards to be able to bring their children to community centers. We want to acknowledge these efforts as these relationships and their work is an example of what meaningful access without fear could look like. With training and support at the institutional level, all staff could replicate this work and make our city inclusive and equitable for all.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Police Department is asking people with precarious immigration status to talk to them, while refusing to assure their safety from deportation if they do. Over the past two years, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) has sought community endorsement of their ongoing working relationship with CBSA’s Inland Immigration Enforcement under the banner of “Access without Fear”. This relationship subverts the whole intention and purpose of an Access without Fear policy, and is unsafe for people with precarious immigration status. Until the VPD commits to truly providing Access without Fear, the VPD should not pass guidelines called “Access without Fear” which would create a false sense of safety.

Click here to read the full report.