June 30, 2012 – A week ago, a small group of students from Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) and CMU’s Menno Simons College launched a campaign to challenge the federal government’s decision to begin denying supplemental healthcare coverage to refugees on June 30, 2012.
The 59 Cents Campaign for Refugee Healthcare is a politically independent, student-led movement that grew out of a small group assignment in a one week course – “Speaking Out… and Being Heard – Citizen Advocacy” – at CMU’s Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP). Group members Matthew Dueck, Maureen Gathogo (CMU’s Menno Simons College), and Deanna Zantingh were later joined by fellow CMU students Cecilly Hildebrand and Rianna Isaak to help spread the word about the campaign.
“We believe that the recent changes to the Canadian Interim Federal Healthcare Program (IFHP), which supplied refugees with the medical help, are unacceptable,” says project spokesperson Matthew Dueck. “We would like to see this changed, and refugees given the opportunity to receive the healthcare they need.”
“Our assignment was to create an advocacy campaign that could, in theory, be implemented in real life,” says Dueck. “But by the time we were making our class presentation at the end of the week, we realized that there was nothing stopping this from moving beyond the theoretical – and after everything we’d learned about the situation, we were passionate about helping to create change.”
In 2011 alone, Canada opened its doors to 25,000 refugees, offering an opportunity for healing and hope. Many refugees entering the country are leaving traumatic situations, coming to a place where they are operating without support networks or sometimes even a working knowledge of Canada’s official languages.
“Until now, refugees have been entitled to full medical assistance under the Interim Federal Healthcare Program – a $20-million per year program the federal government has cancelled, effective June 30, 2012,” says Dueck.
“$20-million spread across our country’s population works out to only 59 cents per person,” says Dueck. “It makes practical and moral sense to continue this relatively small program that ensures these vulnerable new residents receive help before their treatable illnesses become serious long-term health issues. We recognize that many refugees are unable to speak up on this issue. We’re encouraging all Canadians to lend their voices by sending 59 cents to the Prime Minister, showing our willingness as a country to give our part toward a small but vital program – and hopefully pressure the federal government to reverse this decision.”
“We launched the 59 Cents Campaign on Friday, June 18. And we’ve been overwhelmed by the response so far,” Dueck continues. “People from across the country – including a law professor in Victoria and doctors from all over Canada, as well as regular citizens of all ages – have been encouraging us and getting involved. It really proves the power of a simple idea.”
Dueck credits CMU and the CSOP for helping promote peace and justice. “The CSOP is so diverse,” he says. “It’s really the strength of the program that it brings together people from all walks of life, and from all over the world, to share their experiences and ideas. You realize quickly that the little things we do here can make a big impact all around the world.”
“We are very excited about this campaign,” says Valerie Smith, Co-director of the Canadian School of Peacebuilding at CMU. “We want this to be a place that can bridge thinking with doing, to bring in leaders in peacebuilding from around the world to support those already working in the field and inspire students to get involved. These students are relatively new to peacebuilding, but their time at CMU has really steeped them in ideas of peace and justice – values we promote throughout every course we offer and our community as a whole. We hope that the CSOP will continue to provide this type of experience and inspiration for all those who attend, so they can take what they’ve learned back to their communities and use it to make a real difference.”
The 59 Cents Campaign will continue after the June 30, 2012 deadline, in an effort to have the decision reversed, says Dueck.
Through its Shaftesbury and Menno Simons College campuses, CMU offers one of the world’s largest undergraduate programs in peace and conflict studies.
The Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP), an institute of Canadian Mennonite University, is a learning community of diverse peacebuilders from around the world who come together to learn, network, and engage in peacebuilding. Now in its fourth year, CSOP offers a selection of five-day courses that can be taken for professional or personal development or for academic credit. Visit csop.cmu.ca
A Christian university rooted in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU offers undergraduate degrees in arts and science, business, humanities, music, and social sciences, as well as two graduate degree programs. CMU has over 1,700 students at its Shaftesbury Campus, at Menno Simons College in downtown Winnipeg, and enrolled through its Outtatown discipleship program. CMU is a member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.
For more information on the 59 Cent Campaign:
For interviews, contact project spokesperson Matthew Dueck at 204-371-9826
View the Campaign’s video on YouTube: http://youtu.be/TQiSe00HOec
Photo of 59 Cent Campaign group, from left:
Maureen Gathogo, Rianna Isaak,
Cecilly Hildebrand, and Matthew Dueck.
(Missing from photo: Deanna Zantingh)