Recent media coverage of the refugee crisis in Syria and surrounding areas has placed a spotlight on the refugee and asylum policies of Canada and its allies. Forced from their homes due to conflict, refugees face untold peril on their journey to safer lands, with no guarantee of acceptance by their host countries. The photo of Alan Kurdi, who died as his family tried to escape the violence in Syria, has put a face to Canada’s complacency in refugee affairs.
With the reforms to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in 2002 and subsequent bills including the controversial C-31 in 2012, Canada has been backtracking on its international obligation to refugees by making the application and appeals process more exclusionary. For the refugees who are accepted into Canada, sweeping cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program have threatened their access to healthcare.
As healthcare professionals, it is imperative that nurses join the debate on health policy, including on refugees’ access to healthcare. Our voices also need to be heard regarding immigration policy, which can have tragic impacts on the mental and physical health of refugees.
We request that Canada take responsibility for its role in the air strikes over Syria and Iraq. Refugees fleeing the violence from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the government of Bashar al-Assad, and international bombing campaigns must be ensured equal and safe access to resettlement and healthcare within Canada. We also demand that our government urge other countries to do the same.
McGill Nurses for Healthy Policy is calling for Canada to: open its borders to refugees; fast-track the refugee screening process; eliminate the “designated countries of origin” restrictions for asylum seekers; and ensure that refugees have access to fair and equitable healthcare. We believe that access to safe and effective healthcare is a fundamental right, and that guaranteed healthcare is part and parcel to effective refugee policy. Canada can no longer rest on its laurels; the time to act is now.
—McGill Nurses for Healthy Policy, firstname.lastname@example.org