Undocumented blind woman claims to be denied services in Montreal, newly-named sanctuary city

Click to play video: 'Blind woman seeks sanctuary in Montreal'
Blind woman seeks sanctuary in Montreal
WATCH ABOVE: A blind, undocumented woman says she was denied access to rehabilitation services by the Montreal Association for the Blind, despite the City of Montreal’s declaration that it is a sanctuary city. Global's Anne Leclair reports – May 24, 2017

A woman who has called Montreal home for more than three decades claims she’s been denied basic health-care services.

This, despite the fact that Montreal was recently declared a sanctuary city for people with an undocumented immigration status.

The 57-year-old is now blind and going public in the hopes that Montreal mayor, Denis Coderre, will step in to help.

“I’m wearing a mask because I don’t necessarily want to be identified by the whole public,” Marcia, which is not her real name, said at a news conference in Old Montreal on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Councillor expresses caution on moving forward with sanctuary city designation

The Montreal resident spent most of her life working as a nanny, a housekeeper and eventually a caretaker for the elderly, but she was forced to stop working three years ago after losing her sight due to untreated diabetes.

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Despite several requests, she claims she’s been turned down for rehabilitation services at the Montreal Association for the blind, also known as MAB Mackay centre.

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“There’s no way I could see a doctor without paying,” Marcia said. “I suffer a lot because I am non-status.”

WATCH: Montreal declares itself ‘sanctuary city’ as influx of asylum seekers arrives 

Click to play video: 'Montreal declares itself ‘sanctuary city’ as influx of asylum seekers arrives'
Montreal declares itself ‘sanctuary city’ as influx of asylum seekers arrives

In a written statement, the centre said it “cannot comment on any matter involving a healthcare user, for reasons of confidentiality. It should also be noted that in order to receive specialized healthcare services, one has to have a valid RAMQ (medicare) card.”

“However, if our CIUSSS finds that healthcare services should be provided to someone who lacks a valid RAMQ card, we may make a recommendation to the Ministry of Health, where a decision is made, usually for humanitarian reasons.”

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Marcia said she has the support of several community groups including former undocumented Montrealers who’ve been through similar situations.

“Being diabetic, blind with no services — it’s suicide,” Immigrant Workers Centre Abdelkader Belaouni said. “I’m so angry and I’m asking the mayor to help her.”

“Marcia’s situation is powerful evidence of how Coderre’s Sanctuary City policy has failed to address this crisis in health care. Everyone should have access to health care,” says Dr. Nazila Bettache, physician and community organizer.

Late Wednesday, Coderre said a solution lies with the Quebec government since health care is under provincial jurisdiction. He also added that sanctuary city simply means they won’t deport people with an undocumented immigration status.

“We’ve got to be careful with words now, when we talk about sanctuary city it’s about ‘are we going to send out a person because of her profile as an immigrant or refugee?'”

Marcia is hopeful but also devastated after doctors recently told her she would likely still be able to see if her diabetes had been detected and treated sooner.

“It’s sad for me to know I end up being blind because I had no access to health care to help myself.”

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