October 12, 2016
Honourable Terry Lake
Minister of Health
PO Box 9050 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2
Dear Minister Lake,
Re: MSP enrollment for infants whose parents have precarious immigration status
I am writing to you on behalf of First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition to raise our members’ collective concern about the barriers to the enrollment of Canadian-born children in the Medical Services Plan of British Columbia (MSP) if their parents have precarious immigration status.
In ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Canada and British Columbia committed to “recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.” (Article 24)
You have acknowledged in the BC Legislature that babies born in Canada are citizens and immediately eligible for MSP enrollment. However, in correspondence with Sanctuary Health dated July 27, 2016, Assistant Deputy Minister Barbara Walman describes a conditional entitlement to enrollment that can be delayed for a three-month waiting period based on the precarious immigration status of the babies’ mothers and even longer depending on the immigration intentions of the parents.
We are hearing from families with precarious status whose applications to enroll their Canadian-born child have received no reply or been denied enrollment because the parents did not qualify for MSP coverage. Others fear making an application to enroll their Canadian-born child because they are undocumented and since the Commission has been asking for their identity and residence documentation, they fear being reported to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).
We appreciate that you told the Legislature that BC health authorities are no longer contacting CBSA to check on applicants’ residence status, however, families are still fearful.
One family has noted that they get really worried and feel powerless when [their infant] is sick. “It’s very stressful to be thinking that he is not eligible for medical coverage because he has a special condition that at any moment he will probably need surgery and it will be complicated to have him get this surgery.”
Given BC’s commitments to children’s right to health care, and Canadian-born children’s right to MSP coverage, we are concerned that the practices described above are interfering with these rights based on their parents’ immigration status. We are also confused by the apparent contradiction between your assurances in the Legislature on this topic and the statements made in your ministry’s letter to Sanctuary Health.
We are calling on your government to direct the Medical Services Commission to immediately establish a process, as other provinces have, to waive proof of identity and residency for parents of Canadian-born infants who have precarious immigration status, especially for the purposes of securing MSP coverage for these infants.
Further we are calling on your government to direct the Commission to adopt and publicize a policy of non-collaboration with the CBSA, in order to remove the barrier of fear that exists for parents with precarious immigration status who want to enroll their babies for MSP coverage.
Our urgent priority must be upholding the right of these babies to the health care they need.
We thank you for your attention and look forward to your response.
Stephen Brown, Deputy Minister
Judy Darcy, Opposition Spokesperson for Health
First Call coalition members
Enc: First Call members list