Physicians mobilizing in defense of health care for refugees

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On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Dr. Hasan Sheikh. He is a member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, a group of physicians that has been mobilizing in response to the Conservative government's cruel 2012 cuts to health care for refugees.

You don't often hear about physicians, en masse, taking issues to the streets. As today's guest himself identifies, it tends to be a fairly conservative profession. As well, for all that there are frameworks with roots within the medical establishment that allow for much more resolutely social ways of understanding health and wellbeing, the everyday practice of medicine tends to be quite focused on the individual, on helping this particular person with this particular problem.

Yet in the last few years, some physicians in Canada have been mobilizing. Their first action was a sit-in, and they have had a number of demonstrations, not to mention making regular strong statements in the media. This is perhaps explained by the fact that it's an issue that is very relevant to the core activities of physicians, and that represents a particularly cruel and egregious example of a government decision denying residents of Canada access to health care. And the issue, of course, is the 2012 decision by the Conservative government to cut a federal program that had smoothly covered certain basic health care needs for refugees and refugee claimants for more than 50 years, and to replace it with a confusing, complicated patchwork that leaves many refugees in Canada with no way whatsoever to address certain urgent healthcare needs.

According to Sheik, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care began among some physicians who came together in Toronto in 2012, and now has members across the country. Along with annual demonstrations, they have also been integrally involved in a legal challenge to the cuts to refugee health care, have done education with physicians and with the general public about the issue, and have worked with provincial governments to find other ways to meet at least some of the needs left unmet by these cuts. Sheik talks with me about the awful impacts of the cuts on patients that he and his colleagues have seen, about the group, and about the struggle to restore access to basic health care for refugees in Canada.

To learn more about Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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