Changes to the Interim Federal Health Program


The Federal government recently announced that as of June 30, 2012 there will be major changes to the Interim Federal Health Program.

The Interim Federal Health (IFH) program which is administered by Citizenship and Immigration Canada provides health care to certain groups of people who are not able to pay for their health care services and who are not covered by private or public health care plans such as the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP).

Those who are eligible for the IFH program include:

  • Refugee claimants and their dependent children whose claims are still being processed
  • Applicants for a pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA)
  • Protected persons included resettled refugees and their dependents, refugee claimants whose claims have been accepted and those who have received a positive (PRRA)
  • Failed refugee claimants
  • Persons granted coverage due to exceptional or compelling circumstances such as victims of human trafficking

Currently, IFH coverage includes essential health services including treatment for the prevention of serious medical and dental conditions, prescription medication and life saving non-prescription medication, prenatal and obstetrical care, vision care and ambulance service.

However, as of June 30, 2012, the coverage provided by the IFH program will be significantly reduced for those who qualify and there will be different types of medical coverage for different categories of applicants who qualify.

After June 30, 2012, protected persons and refugee claimants whose claims are still pending and who are not from a Designated Country of Origin (DCO) will only be given urgent or essential health care services from hospitals, labs, ambulances and doctors or nurses and will be covered for medication or vaccines only if needed to prevent a disease that is a risk to public health or public safety.

Designated Country of Origin is a new concept which has been introduced by the Federal government in it’s new Bill to change the immigration and refugee law. DCO countries are those countries which normally do not produce refugees. Factors such as human rights record and state protection will be used to determine which countries are will be on the DCO list.

Refugee claimants whose claims are still pending and who are from a DCO as well as rejected refugee claimants will only have public health and public safety health care coverage after the changes. This means hospital, lab, ambulance and doctor/nurse services and medication and vaccines will be available only if needed to prevent or treat a disease which poses a risk to public health or safety.

Applicants who have made a pre-removal risk assessment and who have not previously made a refugee claim will no longer be entitled to any health care coverage at all.

According to the Federal government, this reduction in coverage was made to save money and to equalize the coverage provided under the IFH program with that provided by provincial health insurance plans such as OHIP. However, the coverage provided after the changes is less than that of provincial health insurance plans because health care coverage provided by the IFH program will be provided only on an urgent or essential basis and for some only if there are public health and safety risks. Therefore, services such as annual physical check-ups and flu shots will no longer be covered even though such services are very important as they are preventative in nature and in the long run reduce the use of hospital and other medical services.

In addition, even though Ontarians do not get drug coverage from OHIP, low income Ontarians who have OHIP coverage can qualify for financial assistance with medication through drug programs such as the Trillium Drug Program. Refugee claimants do not have access to such as programs.

The proposed changes to the IFH program are excessive and further add to the hardship of refugee claimants who come to Canada. Refugee claimants were provided with supplemental benefits such as dental and vision care because they had no where else to obtain these benefits and often do not have the financial means to pay for them. The changes to the IFH program essentially creates an inferior level of medical care for refugee claimants.


A Guide to Family Court for unrepresented parties (at the Ontario Court of Justice in North Toronto)


The Family Court at 47 Sheppard Ave East is located on the 1stand 2ndfloor of the building. On the 1stfloor, you will find the family legal information centre (FLIC), filing counter, Advice Counsel and the First Appearance Court. On the 2nd floor, you will find the court rooms for scheduled appearances before judges.

If you DO NOT have an ongoing court case but would like some general information about the legal process, you can meet with our Advice Counsel on the 1stfloor. You must attend in person. From there, you will be provided with information about how to start a court case, and may be referred to other Legal Aid services, for example: document preparation services or a legal aid certificate if deemed appropriate.

If you are appearing in court for the first time, chances are you will be attending First Appearance Court before a court clerk on the first floor (located at the right side once you pass security screening). You will not be seeing a judge on that day. You can sign up for Duty Counsel to assist you in moving your case forward towards a resolution. The level of assistance you will receive will depend on a number of criteria. You should always bring all your court papers with you to court to ensure Duty Counsel can assist you in a meaningful way.

If your case could not be resolved in First Appearance Court, the clerk will schedule a Case Conference before a judge on the second floor. Duty Counsel is available to provide summary legal advice or representation depending on your financial situation and the complexity of your legal matter. Make sure you know who your judge is, so that you may find the right Duty Counsel to assist you.

Interpreter: If you require an interpreter, you can request the court to provide one for your scheduled court appearance (including your First Appearance or Case Conference). This can be done when you file your materials at the counter or alternatively, at the office on the left end on the ground floor in 47 Sheppard. If you are attending Advice Counsel, you need to bring your own interpreter.

Mediation Services: The court also provides mediation services, both for free or alternative on a sliding scale. If you are interested in trying mediation with the other party, you should ask the Duty Counsel for further information. Brochures about the mediation program are also available at the courthouse.


Employment Insurance (EI) and Workers and/or Residents Outside of Canada


Unemployed workers are not usually eligible to receive regular benefits while they are away from Canada. However, employees can receive regular benefits if they show that they are available for work in Canada while abroad and they inform their local Service Canada Centre that they will be away temporarily. If a person indicates that he/she has taken measures to be reached if an employment opportunity presents itself during an absence and that person is able to return to Canada within 48 hours, Service Canada will accept that the person has proven your availability.

A person receiving EI benefits can be outside Canada for a period of seven consecutive days for certain purposes. These include attending the funeral of a member of your immediate family or a close relative, accompanying a member of your immediate family to a medical facility, provided that the treatment sought is not readily available in the family member’s area of residence in Canada, visiting a member of your immediate family who is seriously ill or injured, or attending a bona fide job interview. A person can also be away from Canada for a period of fourteen consecutive days for the purpose of conducting a bona fide job search.

If a person is applying for EI sickness benefits, he/she can only leave Canada and continue to receive EI sickness benefits if the person is outside Canada to obtain medical treatment that is not offered or not immediately available in a hospital, medical clinic, or equivalent health institution in Canada. If a person decides on his/her own initiative to go to another country to rest or recuperate, then he/she will not entitled to benefits. A person is also eligible to receive EI maternity and parental benefits while they are outside Canada. Different provisions may apply to Quebec residents who receive Quebec Parental Insurance Program benefits. In general, persons receiving EI benefits must notify Service Canada when they are leaving the country.

Only certain people working outside Canada may be entitled to benefits under Canada’s EI program. Those working outside Canada for a Canadian company or the Canadian government are usually covered by Employment Insurance (EI). A person will not be insured by Canada’s EI program if his/her job is covered by the country in which he/she is working. Employees may ask their employer to find out whether their job is insured under Canada’s EI program, or they can call 1-800-959-5525 to inquire about the insurability of their employment.

For residents residing outside Canada, EI benefits may be paid out only in certain situations. EI may be paid where 1) the person’s last employment was in Canada but now resides in United States, 2) the person’s permanent residence is in a country other than Canada or the United States and he/she is applying for maternity, parental or compassionate care benefits, or 3) if the person is a commuter. A commuter is defined as a resident of Canada or the United States (U.S.) who regularly crosses the Canada/U.S. border between their residence and workplace.

For people residing in the United States and claiming regular benefits, they must be available and actively seeking work.

Most importantly, they must provide proof that they are legally authorized to work in the United States. Such persons will also need to submit a Record of Employment (ROE) from their Canadian employer. American Unemployment Insurance benefits may be paid to an employee if his/her last employment was in the United States and he/she now resides in Canada. If such persons also had previous employment in Canada, they may be able to file a claim for Canadian EI benefits instead. A person may be able to receive benefits from either Canada or the United States, but not both at the same time.

If a person is normally residing outside Canada in a country other than the United States, that person may be eligible for maternity, parental or compassionate care benefits only. A person permanently residing in a country other than Canada or the United States may be eligible for maternity and parental,sickness and compassionate carebenefits if the person has worked in a job in his/her country of residence that is insurable under Canada’s EI program. Regular benefits are not payable to a person residing in a country other than Canada or the United States.

Employees may file a claim for Canadian EI maternity, parental,sickness or compassionate care benefits online. Details and information can be found online on the Service Canada website at, calling the toll-free number 1-800-206-7218, or by writing to the following address:

Service Canada Centre

Sub-Unit of Interstate Claim Processing

299 Concession Street

PO Box 210

Kingston, Ontario

K7K 2B9

Specialty legal clinic for WSIB matters


Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario (IAVGO) and Injured Workers Consultants (IWC) are two legal clinics located in Toronto which provides free summary advice to injured workers in Ontario and their family members and legal representation to injured workers in Ontario who financially qualify for their services in accordance with Legal Aid Ontario’s financial eligibility criteria.

Legal representation includes assistance with all aspects of their workers compensation claim including representation at hearings before the Workplace Safety and Insurance and Board and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal. They do public legal education for the community about workers rights and produce newsletters and pamphlets and videos. Also, they advocate for the rights of injured workers to affect positive change to workers compensation law and policy by lobbying the government alongside injured workers and through test cases.

IAVGO is located at 489 College Street, Suite 203 (west of Bathurst Street), Toronto, Ontario. Their phone number is 416-924-6477. They are open every day between 8:30 to 4:30 p.m. except on Tuesdays when they are open from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

IWC is located at 815 Danforth Avenue, Suite 411, Toronto, Ontario. Their phone number is 416-461-2411. They are open every day between 9 to 4:30 p.m. except Wednesday when they are open between 1 – 4:30 p.m. Intake advice is given on Tuesday and Thursday between 10:30 – 3:30 p.m.

If you do not speak English, it is best to have someone who speaks English call on your behalf.

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