In June, a group of students from the Canadian School of Peacebuilding at the Canadian Mennonite University launched the 59 Cents Campaign.
On April 25, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced that the supplemental health-care benefit coverage for protected persons, refugee claimants, and others who do not qualify for provincial or territorial health insurance plans will end on June 30, 2012.
In a video posted to YouTube, the students behind the 59 Cents Campaign ask Canadians to join them in sending 59 cents to Prime Minister Stephen Harper—the annual cost to each Canadian for this special supplemental health-care benefit program. The Citizenship and Immigration Canada press release cites estimated cost savings of 100 million dollars over five years. 20 million dollars divided by Canada’s population equals 59 cents.
The 59 Cents Campaign state during their YouTube video:
“Cutting cents now will cost Canadians more than dollars later… 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.”
Health-care professionals across Canada have also rallied to protest this decision.
Some senators support the government’s decision to end supplemental health-care benefit coverage for refugees. Others, like me, do not. Senator Cordy wrote a compelling op-ed in this morning’s Cape Breton Post, calling on Canadians to hold true to our “humanitarian nature” and “our global reputation as a compassionate nation.” We have debated and will continue to debate these and other important matters of public policy and human rights. The beauty of democracy is that debate never ends.
Today, however, I want to commend these students, these patriotic Canadians, for their engagement, resolve, and advocacy.
“I have a friend who’s a refugee who was impacted by this,” said one of the students involved with the campaign, Rianna Isaak, in a story that appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on Wednesday, June 27.
These students are creatively, peacefully, actively participating in democracy. They are attacking neither a person nor a party—but rather a substantive policy with which they disagree. This is something to celebrate—an inspiring example to us all.