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December 10, 2013
Toronto Public Health commends province's refugee health program
Toronto Public Health congratulates the Government of Ontario and the Minister of Health for their announced introduction of the Ontario Temporary Health Program (OTHP) to begin on January 1, 2014.

The new program, announced yesterday, will provide access to essential and urgent health care and medication coverage to refugees and refugee claimants living in Ontario, regardless of immigration status or country of origin. The OTHP is intended to fill the gap left by the federal government's changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) on June 30, 2012.

"Refugees and refugee claimants are an already marginalized group who face health risks, barriers to access and in some cases poorer health outcomes and increased mortality than those born in Canada. I am pleased the provincial government has announced its program to help Ontario residents get access to urgent, essential services and medication to improve their health," said Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health.

"Toronto Public Health has a mandate to provide public health services to all Toronto residents regardless of their citizenship. We continue to urge the federal government to reverse cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program," said Dr. McKeown.

Toronto Public Health's Board of Health report advocating for the restoration of the IFHP is available at

More information about OTHP is available at

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.8 million people. Toronto's government is dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city. For information on non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can dial 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Backgrounder - Access to health care for refugee claimants

Toronto Public Health provides and advocates for health services for all of our residents. Access to health services for refugees and refugee claimants is important for the health of these individuals to help ensure their successful settlement and integration in Toronto, and to protect and promote the health of the entire population.

Federal cuts to refugee health care coverage
The federal government had a long history of providing basic health care coverage to refugee claimants through the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). In June 2012, the federal government changed the refugee application process in Canada and cut health coverage provided to refugee claimants under the IFHP. The changes dramatically reduced health care coverage for different refugee claimants groups, and in some cases coverage was virtually eliminated.

In response to the federal government changes, the Toronto Board of Health and the City of Toronto adopted a report that supported access to health care for refugees and refugee claimants. One of the main recommendations was to urge the federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to reinstate the IFHP to maintain support for refugee and refugee claimant health-care needs.

Ontario filling federal funding gap with temporary health program
On December 9, 2013, the Ontario government announced that it will join other provinces to reinstate access to health care for refugee claimants. Effective January 1, 2014, the Ontario Temporary Health Program will provide access to essential and urgent health-care, as well as medications coverage to refugee claimants living in Ontario. This comprehensive program will address the majority of issues that refugee claimants in Ontario have been facing as a result of the federal cuts.

The province's news release is available at

Both Toronto Public Health and the Ontario government continue to call on the federal government to provide health coverage for all refugee claimants. The City of Toronto, including Toronto Public Health programs, continues to provide services to all Toronto residents regardless of immigration status.

Media Contact
Kris Scheuer
Toronto Public Health



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