Where care matters more than a card

New Canadians, ineligible for insured services, rely on the medical lifeline of the CCRIHC’s Free Clinics.

Our Origins

CCRIHC was the first volunteer medical clinic in Canada dedicated to refugees and immigrants. In 1999 a borrowed church basement in a Toronto suburb became home to a new and innovative kind of refugee and immigrant health centre.

A clinic operated by a handful of volunteer doctors, nurses and community members began providing free healthcare to newcomers to Canada who found it difficult, often impossible to obtain the medical treatment they needed. Many refugees and immigrants have to wait before they receive access to Canadian public health coverage. The wait can be years.

Where a clinic in a church basement began two decades ago a seventy-member volunteer interdisciplinary medical, dental and social care team with staff in a modern clinic now provides humanitarian medical care and assistance to those new to Canada who find themselves sick and medically uninsured.

70% of those we treat are female.

31% of visits are to uninsured, precariously insured children and youth new to canada

19% of our patients are new Canadians seeking pregnancy care

Newcomers uprooted from their home, their country by circumstances beyond their control gather their children and flee.

They suffer horribly again on treacherous refugee journeys. Forced into migration they have lost everything – parents, children, spouses, homes. They have suffered war, religious and gender-based persecution, torture, trafficking, kidnapping and diseases. Anxiety, depression, nightmares, shame, and guilt have taken hold, stolen their confidence and futures

When they arrive here they ask one thing from us….. our permission to start again, to build a new life, to succeed and call Canada their home.

Canada has a long proud history of lending a helping hand to newcomers who need one, refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers less fortunate through no fault of their own. The drive, resilience, and determination of refugees and immigrants to make better lives for themselves and their families has helped Canada prosper and become one of the most admired and successful societies in the world. Those new beginnings become ever more challenging when newcomers are faced with an illness and turned away for medical care.

Despite Canada’s best intentions, the reality is that many newcomers often fall through the cracks in our healthcare systems and immigration policies

Frequently changing rules and policy barriers have confused providers and newcomers, making it difficult to know who qualifies for care and who does not? Hundreds of thousands needing basic and urgent medical, dental and psychosocial care are turned away Newcomers are among the most vulnerable people in Canadian society.

In 2013 estimates placed the number of medically uninsured and precariously insured in Canada at over half a million persons . The numbers have continued to increase.

Each day our volunteer team and staff help as many of them as we can. Seventy percent are women and children. Fleeing genital cutting and mutilation is common. Government resettled refugees are frequently turned away for medical care by doctors and clinics who won’t accept their Canadian Federal Health Insurance coverage. Refugees making claims for asylum in Canada are often caught in healthcare limbo without any health insurance when claims are denied or interrupted. New Permanent Residents accepted by Canada must go without healthcare access for 90 days. Sometimes they break an arm, get a fever, find a lump in their breast. Medical bills are astronomical. New beginnings end.

Many find their way to our volunteer-driven medical, mental health and dental clinics at The Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Healthcare in Toronto. Each day our volunteer teams and staff help newcomers who need medical care and support. Healthy children are better able to play and learn. Healthy adults are better able to contribute socially and economically to Canada’s future. Healthcare plays a vital role restoring their hopes, dignity, and resiliency.

Each year, CCRIHC’s volunteers provide more than $1 million in direct medical and dental care to New Canadians – care that the system turns away. When reduced ER visits and hospitalizations are considered the savings are higher.