Ontario Newsroom

Providing Fairness for Refugees

News Release

Providing Fairness for Refugees

Ontario Calls on the Federal Government to Provide Essential Health Care

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Ontario is calling on the federal government to be fair and compassionate by fully supporting essential and urgent health care needs for all refugee claimants.

Two years ago, the federal government reduced its assistance of basic health care to refugee claimants by cutting the Interim Federal Health Program. This put the health of some of the most vulnerable in society at risk - in particular pregnant women and children.

To avoid unnecessary and costly visits to emergency rooms, the province created the Ontario Temporary Health Program to provide coverage for most primary care and urgent hospital services, as well as medication coverage to refugee claimants. For the past six months the program has filled the federal funding gap by allowing more than 270 vulnerable refugee claimants access to basic health care services.

Providing fairness to refugee claimants is part of Ontario's Action Plan for Health Care to provide the right care, at the right time, in the right place.

Quick Facts

  • Ontario has invested approximately $565,000 in the Ontario Temporary Health Program since it was introduced on Jan. 1, 2014 as an emergency measure to relieve pressure on health care providers.
  • On July 4, 2014 the Federal Court of Canada found that the federal government’s decision to cut the Interim Federal Health Program was “cruel and unusual” to affected individuals and violated parts of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • Refugee claimants tend to have poorer health outcomes than other Ontarians because they are less likely to have planned their arrival to the province or have the money to purchase health insurance privately.
  • Over 33,800 or 46 per cent of all refugee claimants in Canada live in Ontario, with the majority in Greater Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa areas.

Background Information

Additional Resources


“It’s no wonder that the Federal Court of Canada called the federal government’s decision to abdicate their responsibility towards caring for refugee claimants as ‘cruel and unusual.’ Our government is filling the gap with our temporary health program because the people of our province are compassionate. But the federal government can expect the bill in the mail.”

Dr. Eric Hoskins

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

Michael Chan

“Ontario will continue to press the federal government for the reinstatement of the full Interim Federal Health Program. This province supports a system for refugees that reflects the principles of fairness and compassion, and that includes basic health care coverage.”

Michael Chan

Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade

“Physicians across Canada continue to see the dramatic consequences of the federal government’s cuts to refugee health insurance. Pregnant women, sick children and victims of torture are among many that are now being denied care. We encourage the Federal government to listen to the leadership of the health care community as well as the Federal Court of Canada and rescind this costly and dangerous policy. Canadians expect no less.”

Dr. Meb Rashid

Medical Director, Crossroads Clinic, Women’s College Hospital

Media Contacts



Government Health and Wellness