Imagine you have a new child. While she is healthy, you fear something is not right. You want to know if she will survive. Because if she doesn’t, the pain you will experience will be overwhelming.
Where do you go for help? Try Immigration and Refugee Board, or the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Sure, you can call your MP, who will give you another number. I hope.
If I was in that situation, what would I do?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have that option.
Until recently, I would have had the option of seeking clinical care at one of Canada’s many mental health hospitals.
Today, these mental health hospitals are shutting down across the country. In Toronto, the only hospital still open with children beds is Children’s Hospital, and that is closed to newcomers.
If I called at the time, the response would have been the same as the one provided to my daughter: “There is nothing available to you.”
It is a similar situation for those with disabilities. Virtually all of Canada’s facilities will soon be shuttered.
It’s a system that is failing newcomers, locking them into places of oppression.
As a lawyer specializing in immigration and refugee law, I work with people who are arriving here in search of a better life. I know that in some cases, this is what they need to do, but I also know that a more humane approach is also necessary.
That is where a new model of care comes in. An integrated care system that would not just bring immigrants and newcomers into shelters, but rather provide psychological treatment and caregiver support that will last them long after they are released.
This model would give newcomers the support they need to adjust to the Canadian system, rather than resorting to shelters that can turn people away because there is no more room.
There is a bill before the federal parliament to do just that, called The Migrant Mental Health and Resettlement Act. In addition to ensuring that migrants get the care they need for mental health issues, the legislation would ensure that refugees and immigrants receive bilingual health and settlement services. This bill also focuses on supporting immigrants and refugees in their first three years in Canada.
This change would be the right thing to do, for migrants and for Canadians. We have a responsibility to make this a country where mental health issues and disabilities are understood, respected and supported. It’s not just our country.
It is the right thing to do, for immigrants and for Canadians.
We have a responsibility to make this a country where mental health issues and disabilities are understood, respected and supported. It’s not just our country.
This article was written with Catherine Wiebe, a Toronto-based lawyer. She is the co-founding partner at Littler Mendelson LLP’s Immigration Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Practice and co-chairs the Migration Law Group at the firm. The views expressed are those of the author.