Friday, 29 April 2022

Community Victory! BC Provides Health Coverage for People with Maintained Status

After rallies, position papers, press releases and an open letter, people with maintained status can breath a sigh of relief. Effective May 1, 2022, the Ministry of Health has announced that the Medical Services Plan (MSP) policy will be updated so individuals with maintained status can access MSP until a decision is made by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on their application for extension.

People with Maintained Status (previously known as "Implied Status") are workers and students who have 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.[1] Prior to July 1st 2017, the Ministry of Health provided nine months of healthcare coverage to individuals with what was then called “Implied Status.” However, on July 1st 2017, they decided to cut this coverage. The government offered temporary coverage during the pandemic to some people on COVID-19.

According to the Ministry, temporary coverage will be provided to maintained status holders who:

  • Remain in BC on maintained status while waiting for a subsequent work or study permit;
  • Were previously enrolled with MSP;
  • Demonstrate they hold maintained status by providing IRCC receipts showing they applied for their new permit before the expiration of their original permit (or documentation from IRCC if a receipt is not available); and,
  • If the temporary coverage is requested four weeks or longer after the expiration of their original permit, the individual will also need to provide documentation from IRCC demonstrating their application is still active. This may be from the IRCC client website or documentation from IRCC.

 You can read the Ministry of Health's information bulletin here.

People with Maintained Status will no longer have to live with the uncertainty of depending on temporary "COVID-19" coverage. Unlike the COVID-19 policies which arbitrarily set cut-off dates (for example, excluding people whose initial permit expired prior to December 1 2020), the new policy applies for everyone who has Maintained Status.

Thank you to the BC Health Coalition, the BCGEU, the BC Employment Standards Coalition, the BC Federation of Labour, the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, Community Action Initiative, DIVERSEcity Community Resource Society, The Graduate Student Society at SFU, the Hospital Employees' Union, Living in Community, Migrante BC, the Migrant Workers' Centre, Pivot Legal Society, Vancouver Society for Children and Youth of BC, SWAN Vancouver, UFCW1518, Vancouver and District Labour Council, the Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights (CDWCR), West Coast LEAF, the Worker Solidarity Network and Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice for all of your work advocating for the province to stop violating the Canada Health Act.

 



Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Letter to School Districts Across the Province

In April, a motion supporting Sanctuary Schools policies will be put forward at the B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA) Annual General Meeting. Sanctuary Health is writing to School Boards across the province with the below message asking trustees to support the motion and to implement Sanctuary Schools policies in their districts.

Dear School Board Chairs,

We are writing to you requesting that you share this message with your fellow trustees.

We encourage you to take a leadership role in implementing a Sanctuary Schools policy in your district to provide access to basic education for all children eligible under the School Act. Click here to read a briefing note explaining what a Sanctuary Schools policy is and why it is important to pass such a policy. Migrant families should be able to register, without needing an advocate, in a welcoming, safe, anti-racist environment. As explained in the briefing note, Sanctuary Health met directly with representatives of the Funding and Financial Accountability Branch at the Ministry of Education and discussed common concerns raised by school districts about Sanctuary Schools policies. The Ministry's response confirming that their ongoing commitment to access to basic education for all children ordinarily resident regardless of immigration status is in alignment with Sanctuary Schools policy is included in the briefing note.

We also encourage you to support the motion in favour of Sanctuary School policies being put forward at the upcoming B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA) Annual General Meeting. This motion is an important opportunity for school boards to work together to recognize and support the right to education. We believe that the most effective way to create accessible, welcoming schools is for school districts to work together. The BCSTA is the perfect forum to implement this work. In 1989, the BCSTA participated in a review of the School Act, writing that “all children resident in a district should be eligible to attend public school. School boards should not be asked to police the Immigration Act.” This motion seeks to continue this history of fighting for the Right to Education.

Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Sanctuary Health

Friday, 17 December 2021

Media Advisory: Non-Status Mother Targeted Outside Elementary School By Immigration Enforcement


Non-Status Mother Targeted Outside Elementary School By Immigration Enforcement 

Students, Teachers and School Board Trustees speak out demanding Sanctuary Zones around Schools 

New Westminster, BC: Teachers, students, and school board trustees are joining migrants outside Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School after Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) stalked and handcuffed a migrant mother shortly after she dropped off her Canadian daughter at the school. CBSA had previously contacted the school but under New Westminster School District’s Sanctuary Schools policy, information about students is not shared with immigration authorities unless required by law; it appears CBSA chose to surveil the school instead. Migrants across British Columbia are now afraid to go to school. On December 18th, International Migrants Day, students, teachers and community members will be calling on all schools in BC to declare themselves Sanctuary Schools, where all students regardless of immigration status can study without fear, and demanding that immigration enforcement respect these designations and do not enter, wait outside, or call requesting information about migrants from schools. 

WHAT: Students, teachers and school board trustees call for schools to be declared Sanctuary Zones to protect families. 
WHEN: Saturday December 18 10 AM, International Migrants Day
WHERE:
Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School, 1714 8th Ave, New Westminster, BC V3M 2S7, unceded territory of the Halkomelem speaking peoples including the qiqéyt, qʼʷa:n̓ƛʼən̓ and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm people. 

SPEAKERS AT THE RALLY INCLUDE:
Omar Chu, Sanctuary Health
Maya Russell and Mark Gifford, School Trustees, SD40
Sarah Wethered, President, New Westminster Teachers' Union
Kathleen Carlsen, SD40 DPAC Chair
Reverend Emilie Smith, Saint Barnabas Anglican Church
New Westminster Anne Whitmore, BCEdAccess

About Sanctuary Health 

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.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

BC reverses decision to cut off COVID-related care coverage

Sanctuary Health is relieved that the BC government has walked back a decision to cut off COVID-related care for new residents of the province who are not eligible for coverage under the Medical Services Plan (MSP), hours after Burnaby Beacon published a report on the topic. However, we are shocked that such a cut was even considered. 

Below is a reaction from Sanctuary Health member Omar Chu to the announcement quoted in the Burnaby Beacon: 

"Omar Chu, who’s a member of community health coalition Sanctuary Health and had called for the decision to be reversed, told the Beacon that the situation had further eroded his trust in the provincial government.

“I think this was kind of the last in a series of places where we’ve tried to interact in good faith. Personally, I’m still dealing with the shock of learning about what they were trying to do yesterday, and we’re going to need to see some real solid actions to rebuild trust,” he said.

Chu and Sanctuary Health weren’t aware that the policy was set to expire in a matter of days until alerted to the fact by the Beacon on Tuesday morning. The coalition works directly with new residents who would be impacted by the change.

Chu immediately reached out to his contacts within the Ministry for information and an explanation—but as of Wednesday afternoon, still hadn’t received any sort of response.

“I left voicemails, sent emails, and haven’t heard any response … what I’ve seen over the past four years is that the only thing that gets movement on anything is media attention and public shaming,” he said.

“That seems to be the only thing that gets them to reverse policies—and it seems like this government’s goals are not aligned with ours.”

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Open Letter Regarding Health Care for Migrants who have Maintained Status (Previously Known as “Implied Status”)

UPDATE: On April 29, 2022, the BC Ministry of Health has updated their policy for individuals with "Maintained Status" previously known as "Implied Status.' People with Maintained Status will no longer have live with the uncertainty of depending on temporary "COVID-19" coverage. Unlike the COVID-19 policies which arbitrarily set cut-off dates (for example, excluding people whose initial permit expired prior to December 1 2020), the new policy applies for everyone who has Maintained Status. You can read the Ministry of Health's information bulletin here.

Click here to download the letter

We call on the BC Ministry of Health to fully provide MSP coverage to workers and students with Maintained Status.

People with Maintained Status are workers and students who have 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.[1] This was previously known as “Implied Status.” In a program delivery update, Immigration and Refugee Citizenship Canada replaced “implied” with “maintained” to clarify that “clients who have applied to extend their status benefit from an extension of their period of authorized stay by law.”[2] People with Maintained Status are clearly defined as residents under the Canada Health Act.[3]

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC Ministry of Health created Temporary Policies to provide MSP coverage to some migrant workers and students with Maintained Status, if they requested it. However, as of April 30th 2021, the BC government has decided to cut off many workers and students with Maintained Status by excluding people whose initial permit expired prior to December 1 2020.

Prior to July 1st 2017, the Ministry of Health provided nine months of healthcare coverage to individuals with what was then called “Implied Status.” However, on July 1st 2017, they decided to cut this coverage.[4] In its place, the Ministry of Health invented a new vocabulary that is not present in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act or the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations: the policy indicates that individuals may be reimbursed for medical expenses if they provide a new valid work or study permit, if the new permit is issued within 9 months of the expiry of the initial permit, if there is no lapse in the individual’s immigration status and ONLY if they request it. They referred to people in this category—and nobody else—as people who have “maintained status.” Immigration and Refugee Citizenship Canada’s program delivery update has now clarified that this is incorrect language and ALL people who have applied to extend their status should be considered to have “Maintained Status.”

The government has now cut health coverage to migrants twice during the pandemic: in July 2020 and April 2021. This is unacceptable and infuriating. We demand that the government reverse this cut and expand coverage for all so that we can have a truly universal health care system.

Signatories

 

BC Health Coalition, BCGEU, BC Employment Standards' Coalition, BC Federation of Labour, Community Action Initiative, DIVERSEcity Community Resource Society, The Graduate Student Society at Simon Fraser University, Hospital Employees' Union, Living in Community, Migrante BC, Migrant Workers’ Centre, Pivot Legal Society, Sanctuary Health Vancouver, Society for Children and Youth of BC, SWAN Vancouver, UFCW1518, Vancouver and District Labour Council, Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights (CDWCR), West Coast LEAF, Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice 
Worker Solidarity Network            

 
Worker Solidarity Network    BC Poverty Reduction Coalition


[1] Pursuant to Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, s 183(5), 186(u), and 189

[3] The Canada Health Act defines “resident” as:  in relation to a province, a person lawfully entitled to be or to remain in Canada who makes his home and is ordinarily present in the province, but does not include a tourist, a transient or a visitor to the province;

[4] From a document acquired by FOI request.

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.

-30-

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.

Sincerely,

Sanctuary Health