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Monday, October 15, 2007

Ontario physicians emulate Schwarzenegger

Legislation passed last week in California to ban smoking in cars when a child is present, and the Ontario Medical Association took notice. Now, they are asking Ontario to do the same thing. (And they're not afraid to use awful puns in the Terminator-referencing title of their press release.)

Based on what Ontario health minister George Smitherman told me back in May, the doctors' prayers may just be answered:

You've suggested the smoking ban should be extended into people's homes. Doesn't that strike you as a little Big Brother-ish? I don't think we all want to live in a place where every third person is a bylaw enforcement officer, but we have to work hard to find a balance there. When I pull up beside a car — and it doesn't happen often, but I am observant — and see someone is smoking with a kid in the car, I'm inclined to draw awareness.

You mean you yell at them to butt out? If I can get their attention, yeah.

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QC new-immigrant medicare restriction under fire

Protesters are denouncing the province's policy of forcing new immigrants to wait three months before they qualify for Quebec public health insurance today in front of Quebec health minister Philippe Couillard's Montreal office, reports the CBC.

The demonstration, staged by Health Care for All, began yesterday and continued through the night as four protesters camped outside the government offices in order to deliver complaint letters to the Minister this morning.

Health Care for All says some immigrant families rack up as much as $63,000 in debt for medical care, as in the case of Algerian seven-year-old Fouad Saiah Adda. The group alleges the three-month delay policy amounts to discrimination against immigrants -- a touchy point these days in Quebec as the Taylor-Bouchard commission on reasonable accommodation is still underway.

A spokesperson for Dr Couillard told the CBC the policy prevents people from coming to Quebec only to take advantage of the healthcare system. The health insurance agency recommends new residents take out private health insurance until they get their Quebec health
cards.

The government's policy is described online. Quebec exempts temporary workers and season farm workers from the three-month delay. Ontario's policy is similar, but allows more exemptions, including for newborns, discharged Canadian military personnel and elderly patients in assisted-living homes. British Columbia and New Brunswick also require three months of residency before immigrants qualify for public health insurance.

The BC Civil Liberties Association last year pressed health minister George Abbott to exempt temporary farm workers from the three-month waiting period. In this letter (PDF), the BCCLA suggest failure to cover those workers immediately is in breach of the Canada Health Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and perhaps the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In 1998, the Canadian Council for Refugees wrote to the UN to insist Canadian provinces' waiting periods for medicare meant that Canada was breaking its commitments under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. (Quebec's three-month delay came into effect in 2001.)

McGill professor of social work Jill Hanley, PhD wrote an article for the Canadian Women's Health Network last year outlining the difficulties posed for women by these waiting periods.

Photo: Assemblée nationale du Québec

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