Middlesex-London Health Unit

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Healthcare for Refugees

In late April 2012, the federal government announced a series of drastic changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), which is the health insurance program for refugees in Canada. The changes came into effect on June 30, 2012. These cuts have resulted in the reduction or elimination of a wide range of health services and benefits to refugee claimants. These cuts are impacting the health status of those seeking refuge in Canada and represent a serious threat to the wellbeing of our community.


On December 15, 2012, further important changes to Canada’s refugee determination system came into effect. These changes are contained in Bill C-31 which makes numerous changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In response to the IFHP cuts, Western medical students developed a YouTube video.

Under the leadership of the Middlesex-London Health Unit, a Resource Map for Newcomers With No Health Coverage (PDF 132KB) and a Community Resource Booklet for Newcomers (PDF 862KB) was developed by a group of concerned citizens and agencies within the London and Middlesex community. These resources outline no cost/low cost services that are available locally to assist professionals and service providers who are working with newcomers in our community.

On December 9, 2013, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care announced the new Ontario Temporary Health Program (OTHP) which addresses the gaps that resulted from the cuts to the Interim Federal health Program.


Since January 1, 2014, the OTHP provides essential and urgent health care to refugee claimants living in Ontario. By taking this action, Ontario supports and improves the health of refugee claimants within our community and province.

In the fall of 2014, the federal court ruled that the 2012 cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program were “cruel and unusual” and in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On November 5, 2014, in response to that ruling, the federal government has restored some but not all of the previous health care benefits provided by the IFHP. The federal government has launched an appeal in response to this ruling.

In the meantime, the above resource and map developed by community partners and individuals remains a valuable resource for no-cost or low-cost health care resources for refugees.

Date of creation: July 2, 2013
Last modified on: March 6, 2018