Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Pen is Mightier...

I am inclined to write letters and emails to various government agencies and departments expressing my concerns about expenditures and matters of justice or injustice. I have done so as an individual, a leader in a congregation, and as the co-chair of the Mission, Outreach & Advocacy committee of my former United Church presbytery. Sometimes it feels like "spitting into the wind," and I have found that the current federal government deigns not to respond to correspondence, even when it comes from an official body. I continue though as an aspect of my Christian practice. We are called to justice and advocacy of the marginalized, and this is one very small way to take action.

Of course leaders are more inclined to respond if you approve of their actions. Here is a response from Minister Deb Matthews in Ontario:
Dear Reverend Mundy:

 Thank you for your email regarding our government's decision to re-instate basic health services for refugee claimants. I'm encouraged by your kind words of support for our decision.

It's very gratifying to know that Ontarians, like you, share my belief that Canada was built on the values of inclusion and mutual support and that we are stronger as a country when we work together.   I can assure you that we remain committed to protecting the health of those who choose to live in Ontario and our health care system will not turn away those in need of emergency medical treatment.

 Following the changes to the Interim Federal Health Program, we urged the federal government to do the right thing and reverse its decision.  Previously, I had also written previously to the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister, Health Canada, and the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister, Citizenship and Immigration, to express Ontario's serious concerns about their decision to significantly reduce health coverage for refugee claimants.

 I expressed that the province is extremely disappointed that the federal government made this decision without any consultation with its provincial and territorial partners and that we view this move as a serious abdication of their responsibility towards some of the most vulnerable people in our society.  In addition, their decision effectively downloaded federal costs onto the provincial health care system resulting in greater pressure on our health care system for Ontarians.   For example, health care providers had to determine who would receive treatment based on a complex set of rules, or provide care without assurance of compensation.  The complicated patchwork of coverage available to refugee claimants meant physicians were spending too much time navigating the system rather than providing care.

 We were also concerned that a lack of access to health services for refugee claimants could reduce their health outcomes and lead to the over use of emergency rooms, which in turn will place a greater burden on our health care system.

 That's why we introduced the Ontario Temporary Health Program (OTHP) on December 9, 2013.  The OTHP took effect on January 1, 2014, and will ensure that refugee claimants have access to essential and urgent health care.  Consistent with Ontario residents, refugee claimants will obtain health care coverage through the program three months after their refugee application is submitted.  The three-month waiting period will be waived for:

·         Infants and children under the age of 18,

·         Women requiring prenatal and perinatal care, and

·         Individuals who have a life-threatening medical condition requiring immediate medical attention.

 Our government will continue to monitor the impact that the federal government's changes to the Interim Federal Health Program have on Ontario's health care system and will bill the federal government for the OTHP program annually. Again, thank you for taking the time to write and share your support.


  Deb Matthews Minister
Is anyone else a letter/email writer? What do you think about doing this?


Laurie said...

Have been a letter writer for Amnesty International for years. Don't know if it helps but I keep writing. I do write and sign petitions to our Federal and Provincial governments, also don't know if it helps, but it does keep me informed and active. If know one does anything nothing will get done! My motto for the day.

Frank said...

If we don't write then governments (and in particular the Harperites) will just assume that nobody cares that much, giving them greater license to do want they want.
And, given their paranoia, by having a great many responses we can provide the surveillance state with enough fodder to keep the intelligence communities fully staffed and occupied with all kinds of subversive elements to monitor!

David Mundy said...

Thanks to both of you. Agreed and agreed!