Government restores health coverage to refugee dying of cancer

Above watch: Here’s an update to the story of Joseph Bernard, a refugee from Pakistan dying of cancer, whose health benefits were cancelled. Now there is a change of heart. Heather Yourex reports.

CALGARY – For Joseph Bernard, last Friday was a very good day.

“For the last couple of months, I was feeling very depressed because of my health and [having] no [health] coverage, but I’m happy now.”

Bernard is a refugee claimant from Pakistan who came to Canada with his family in 2012. He filed a refugee claim because he says as Christians, his family suffered religious persecution.

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“In the process of his claim being processed, he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer,” said Dr. Annalee Coakley, the medical director for the Mosaic Refugee Health Clinic in Calgary.  “His prognosis is six to 12 months.”

An immigration and refugee board decision rejected Bernard’s claim because it found, “no substantial grounds to believe that his removal to Pakistan would subject him to a danger of torture.”

In Canada, refugee claimants receive healthcare coverage while their claims are being considered, but if that claim is denied, all benefits end.

Global News shared Bernard’s story in March, moving many viewers to reach out with offers of support.

“Some had started a website to help raise funds for his care, many others had written the government themselves to ask for some compassion in this case,” said Coakley.

Global News reached out to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) for a comment on Bernard’s case. The request was never answered, but CIC did respond to Bernard late last week, notifying him his health coverage had been restored.

The letter states: “We are pleased to inform you that your Interim Federal Health Program coverage has been approved and your new Interim Federal Health Certificate of Eligibility is attached.”  The letter did not offer any reason for the decision, but Bernard says that’s fine with him, and both he and his doctor are very grateful.

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“I’m very happy they’ve showed compassion,” said Coakley.

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