Send 59 cents to PM: students

Impending cuts to refugees' health care worth less than a buck to each Canadian


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A group of university students in Winnipeg is sending money to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and has produced a video for YouTube urging other Canadians to do likewise.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/06/2012 (3869 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A group of university students in Winnipeg is sending money to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and has produced a video for YouTube urging other Canadians to do likewise.

Their 59 Cents Campaign says that’s all it would cost every Canadian a year to restore health-care benefits to refugees that the federal government is cutting June 30.

“…We are asking all Canadians to place 59 cents in an envelope and send it to the Prime Minister’s Office to let him know that we will not stand for these cuts,” the students at the Canadian School of Peacebuilding at the Canadian Mennonite University said in a video.

Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press Cecilly Hildebrand (from left), Maureen Gathogo, Rianna Isaak and Matthew Dueck want the Tories to refrain from cutting health-care benefits to refugees.

It shows people finding loose change — in couch cushions and sock drawers — then mailing it to the prime minister.

(The video can be viewed at

“We believe that if Canadians stop to consider the effect which these changes will have on the most vulnerable portion of our global society, that our country’s annual savings of 59 cents per person to keep the Federal Interim Health Program open for refugees will be seen as insignificant,” the video says.

For one of the students involved, it’s personal.

“I have a friend who’s a refugee who was impacted by this,” said Rianna Isaak.

Her friend is a 28-year-old Ugandan woman who arrived in Winnipeg with two small children and troublesome wisdom teeth.

Two of her teeth were removed and the procedure was covered under the Interim Health Care Program. She has to wait until July to get two more removed — if she can afford it.

The suggested fee for a single wisdom tooth extraction is from $197.10 to $411.50 per tooth, the Manitoba Dental Association says.

Starting Saturday, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will stop paying for supplemental health benefits for refugees during their first year here.

The cuts prompted health-care professionals to rally across Canada including in Winnipeg at The Forks on June 18.

That inspired the students to take action, said Matt Dueck, 25.

“We wanted to take an angle supportive to what they’re doing, as a push from a different group of Canadian citizens.”

While coming up with an idea was a small-group assignment at school, following through and executing the campaign was not, he said.

“It’s strictly our own moral conviction, our own personal feelings.”

The assignment was to devise an advocacy campaign that could quickly and easily be implemented at the grassroots level.

They targeted the Interim Federal Health Care Program cuts that are expected to save $100 million over the next five years. The anticipated saving works out to $20 million a year and, divided by Canada’s population, that equals 59 cents per person, Dueck figured.

The goal is to get enough support from the Canadian public that the federal government will reverse its decision to cut supplemental health benefits to refugees during their first year in Canada.

He said they have no political affiliation, just a sense of what’s right as citizens of Canada, and they felt strongly enough to make a video, create a web page and use social media to spread the message.

“In 2011, Canada was proudly a place of hope and healing to 25,000 refugees. This is a fact in which we take pride and wish to take pride in for generations to come,” the video says.

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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