For the federal government, cuts to refugee health care may be a matter of dollars and cents, but for refugees living in Winnipeg, it’s a matter of being able to put food on the table for their families.
Idil Tamayare knows upheaval well, having fled war-torn Somalia to a refugee camp in Kenya, to South Africa, where she spent a decade before coming to Canada.
Tamayare and her six children, ranging in ages from 3 to 11, arrived in Winnipeg in 2011 and are currently waiting to hear if their claim will be accepted.
The cuts to supplemental health care by the federal government, which takes effect on June 30, will affect Tamayare hard.
“That is a big problem for me,” said the soft-spoken 30-year-old single mother.
“My 7-year-old son, he sees close, no far, so he needs glasses for school and I can’t pay, it’s difficult for me to pay.”
Tamayare’s family of seven receives $800 in social assistance a month, to pay for absolutely everything: housing, transportation, food, clothing, and, on June 30, medicines as simple as antibiotics and visits to the dentist.
Tamayare chose Winnipeg because her parents live here and are assisting her in every way they can, even buying milk for the children, which at $5 for a four-litre jug, can add up quickly.
Tamayare said the help the federal government provides to refugees is only temporary: she’s starting classes in September to upgrade her English and has as her goal to study to become a home care worker as soon as possible.
Despite all of the difficulties, Tamayare said her children are content in Canada.
“They enjoy it, they would like to stay here,” she added. “They liked the snow. When we came here, they liked to play in the snow. They can’t wait for summer (to be) over.”
Mohamed Ali (Damsho), a settlement counsellor at Welcome Place, said he doesn’t understand why the federal government is making life even harder for refugees.
“The rates of assistance haven’t changed in a lot of years,” which makes the cuts so detrimental, said Ali. “We have so many people from refugee camps who are so keen to study and work, all they need is a little support.
“I don’t understand why they’re doing this.”
A National Day of Action protest is planned for Monday at noon at The Forks.
The changes to Canada’s Interim Federal Health Program were announced in April by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.
Refugees, including children, will be left without supplemental health care coverage for pharmaceuticals, dentistry, vision care and mobility assisted devices.