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Reinstating Access to Health Care for Refugee Claimants

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Reinstating Access to Health Care for Refugee Claimants

Ontario Filling Federal Funding Gap with Temporary Health Program

Ministry of Health

Ontario is joining other provinces by reinstating access to essential and urgent health care for refugee claimants through the new Ontario Temporary Health Program, and will send the federal government the bill to pay for the program.

Last year, the federal government abdicated its responsibility to provide basic care for many refugee claimants by changing the refugee application process in Canada and cutting the Interim Federal Health Program

Through the temporary provincial program, refugee claimants who are not eligible for health care under the new federal rules or through other government programs will be able to access most primary care and urgent hospital services, as well as medication coverage. Effective Jan. 1, 2014, the program will help reduce unnecessary emergency room visits and stress on health providers by providing vulnerable refugee claimants with basic health care services as soon as a health issue surfaces.

Providing the right care, at the right time and in the right place is part of Ontario's Action Plan for Health Care. This initiative supports Ontario government's economic plan to invest in people, build modern infrastructure and support a dynamic and innovative business climate.

Quick Facts

  • Ontario is joining Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Quebec by taking steps to address gaps in health coverage for refugee claimants.
  • Approximately 48,900 or 55 per cent of all refugee claimants in Canada live in Ontario, with the majority in Greater Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa areas.
  • Refugee claimants tend to have poorer health outcomes and are less likely to have planned their arrival to Canada or to have the financial resources to purchase health insurance privately.
  • As of result of the federal government’s cuts to its health care refugee program, more than 30 per cent of Ontario’s refugee claimants are without health coverage beyond public health and public safety coverage.

Background Information

Additional Resources


“Ontario is joining other provinces by stepping in to fill gaps left by the federal cuts to Canada’s Interim Federal Health Program. Along with other provincial governments, we will continue to call on the federal government to reinstate the federal program providing all refugee claimants health care coverage. In the meantime, we will send the federal government the bill to pay back what they owe.”

Deb Matthews

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

“Ontario supports a refugee adjudication system that reflects the principles of fairness, compassion, and efficiency. Some of those who come to our province to build a better life, put themselves at risk just trying to get here. They need our support.”

Michael Coteau

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

“Physicians have seen the drastic consequences of the federal government's cuts to refugee health insurance. Sick children have been denied care, pregnant women have been unable to seek prenatal care placing their pregnancy at serious risk and cancer patients are not covered for life saving chemotherapy. Many of these patients will become Canadian citizens. We are grateful for the provincial government's temporary refugee health program but call on the federal government to close the remaining gaps in coverage which still threaten the health and safety of both refugees and Canadians.”

Dr. Phillip Berger

Chief of Family and Community Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital and member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care

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Government Health and Wellness