Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


RNAO and CACHC granted intervener status ahead of Federal Court of Appeal case on health benefit coverage for refugee claimants


TORONTO, Dec. 10, 2014 – The views of nurses and those representing primary health-care organizations will be heard when a Federal Court of Appeal case looking into health services for refugees begins next year.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) and the Canadian Association of Community Health Centres (CACHC) were granted intervener status Monday in the appeal of a July 2014 ruling regarding health benefits for refugee claimants.

In the decision under appeal, Justice Mactavish struck down controversial changes Ottawa made to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), describing them as “cruel and unusual” treatment that could potentially put “lives at risk.”

The June 2012 changes to IFHP effectively left refugee claimants and their families without access to primary health care, including prescription drugs, until November of this year when the federal government was forced to comply with Justice Mactavish’s order and restore access to basic health-care services.

The two organizations say the upcoming court case is significant because it will decide once and for all whether the cuts imposed by the federal government went against fundamental principles enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“We’re delighted the court will allow us to present our views because this issue goes to the very core of our country’s social fabric. Is health care a human right? And if so, then what the federal government has done is clearly wrong,” says Vanessa Burkoski, RNAO’s President. “Refugees and their families have paid a heavy price as a result of the health cuts imposed by Prime Minister Harper and his government.” Burkoski says it is unfortunate the government has chosen to go ahead with its appeal instead of abandoning its attack on a vulnerable population.

Jane Moloney, Chair of the CACHC says she’s very encouraged by the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to hear from Canada’s Community Health Centres. “This formal input from CHCs will shine new light on the significant confusion that has been caused within the health system across the country, as well as delays in care, administrative burdens, and preventable illness for individuals and families at very vulnerable points in their lives. We believe that all of this is contrary to our Canadian values and our shared vision for an accessible, cost-effective health system.”

RNAO and CACHC are being represented by Rahool Agarwal, Rachel Bendayan, John M. Picone, and Amelie Aubut from the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright Canada.

“We are honoured to represent RNAO and the CACHC. It is extremely important that the court hear arguments directly from nurses and community health centres, and gain the perspective of those working within our Canadian health-care system before rendering a decision on the government's appeal on the legality of the changes to the Interim Federal Health Care Program,” says Bendayan, a litigation lawyer at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada.


The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at You can also check out our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.

The Canadian Association of Community Health Centres (CACHC) is the federal voice for Community Health Centres and community-oriented, people-centred primary health care across Canada. CACHC advocates re-orientation of health services to increase emphasis on preventing illness and to improve access to Community Health Centres as a high-quality, cost-effective method for ensuring comprehensive primary health care. More information about CACHC may be found at You may also connect with CACHC on Facebook and Twitter.

To arrange an interview, please contact:

Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
Cell: 647-406-5605 / Phone: 416-408-5605

Scott Wolfe, Executive Director, CACHC
Cell: 416-839-0531 / Phone: 416-922-5694