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
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. 

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, 26 May 2021

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

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.



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.


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: