September 28, 2020

By CALEIGH MCLELLAND

Canada is recognized internationally as a peaceful country. Because of this, hundreds of thousands of immigrants arrive yearly, whether it be to work, to be with family or to escape conflict. But whatever the reason, these people know that they will be living in a country that is known for its diversity and for offering fair and equal opportunity to both citizens and immigrants. Oh, and for its “free” health-care system, which actually isn’t so free after all.

Last week a friend of mine, who recently sponsored his 13-year-old daughter to come to Canada from the Dominican Republic, had to rush her to emergency. It ended up that she had appendicitis and had to have her appendix removed immediately.

Before the surgery even began, the cost of her hospital visit was ridiculously expensive. And that didn’t even include the cost from the previous hospital before she was transferred, the ambulance ride, the daily room rate of $1,200, or any medication.

My friend is a Canadian citizen, but his daughter is not. She arrived just before Christmas as a permanent resident, and therefore does not yet qualify for health care services paid for by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, while there are some exceptions, generally there is a three-month waiting period for OHIP if you are a new resident.

So basically, a person who has gone through the lengthy immigration process of paperwork, interviews and medical examinations, and arrives in Ontario as a permanent resident is not eligible for our so-called “free health-care.”

This is ridiculous considering permanent residents have access to almost everything Canadian citizens do. They are able to go to school and work at jobs that provide them with great benefit plans, so what’s with the three-month OHIP waiting period?

I understand that there are lengthy processing times due to the number of immigrants arriving in Canada. I also understand that the government doesn’t want people to abuse our health-care system. But if a person has had medical examinations in order to enter the country, and is eligible for OHIP, why do these benefits not kick in as soon as they arrive?

In the meantime, Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-term Care advises people to purchase private health insurance. I suppose this is a cheaper option as opposed to paying tens of thousands of dollars for an unexpected emergency, but it is still an unnecessary cost for those who meet the requirements of OHIP.

It is upsetting to watch someone who came to Canada for a better life, and who waited so long for his daughter to be with him, to have to struggle financially all over again because of something that is advertised as “free.”