Wednesday 7 November 2012

Friday 2 November 2012

Dia de los Muertos Vigil


November 1, 2012 
Community gathers for Dia de los Muertos Vigil to mourn life-threatening refugee health care cuts

Vancouver, BC:  On Thursday evening community members, health care workers, refugees and migrants gathered in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) vigil, to oppose recent cuts to refugee health care.  “Dia de los Muertos is a prehispanic celebration to honour our ancestors. We are also using it to celebrate resistance and honour fallen immigrants and refugees” explains organizer Alejandra Lopez.  The crowd mourned the recent death of the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). Flowers and banners were carried in a candlelit procession through the Downtown Eastside to mark opposition to this change, which denies most refugees access to basic health care. 

The event was organized by Sanctuary Health, a grassroots organization that formed in opposition to the health care cuts, and by members of the Latin American community.  On June 30, 2012 the Federal government made drastic changes to the IFHP.  These cuts deny approximately 95% of refugees in Canada access to all primary and preventative health care.  The Conservative government has promoted the cuts as only denying non-urgent health care – but in fact they include essentials such as prenatal care for pregnant women and life-saving medications such as insulin. 

As community nurse Natalie Blair noted “I am being asked to let someone go blind when it could have been prevented”.  She is one of many health care workers across the country who have refused to cooperate with the cuts and have been active in vocalizing resistance.  Those in opposition claim the cuts violate basic human rights, are rooted in racism, and threaten the lives of refugees.   The Harper government and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney have been criticized for pushing forward aggressive and anti-immigrant policies. “These cuts represent the politics of division.  The government has made a choice to divert money away from the most marginalized people.  This is making people sick and forcing them to live in fear” said Martha Roberts, a midwife and member of Alliance for Peoples Health, as she addressed the crowd. 

Sanctuary Health is collecting signatures for a petition demanding that the health care cuts be reversed and that all migrants have access to health care.   They will continue to organize against these cuts and other policies preventing refugees and migrants from accessing health care.  More information about Sanctuary Health and these initiatives can be found at  

photo courtesy of Eugene Kung

photo courtesy of Eugene Kung

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Photographs by Eugene Kung