The Provincial government’s attempt to deny migrant workers access to OHIP was dealt a significant blow by the Health Services Appeal and Review Board last week. In a four page ruling the Health Services Appeal and Review Board affirmed their landmark August 16 decision that allowed migrant workers an extension of their OHIP in cases of medical emergencies.
In its ruling, the Appeal Board states it is “satisfied that the previous decision is supported by the evidence that was before the panel and the panel addressed the legal issues raised by the Respondent. This panel is not persuaded that the previous decision should be varied”.
On August 9, 2012 Kenroy Williams and Denville Clarke were among nine Jamaican migrant workers who were driving to work when their employer’s van swerved to avoid an oncoming car. The van rolled several times killing one passenger and severely injuring several others. Their employer attempted to return both Williams and Clarke to Jamaica after the accident despite their serious medical conditions and before they could receive adequate health care. Family members and activists with Justicia for Migrant Workers intervened to help the workers remain in Ontario for their desperately needed medical treatment.
Both Williams and Clarke were employed under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). As with all SAWP workers, Williams’ and Clarke’s OHIP coverage expired at the end of the farming season, even though they both remained seriously injured and in need of health care in Ontario.
The pair won their landmark appeal, which allowed them to receive extended health care in Ontario at the Health Services Appeal and Review Board on August 16, 2013. The Ontario government challenged the ruling and, as a result, the Appeal Board reconsidered and affirmed the decision last Friday.
“The Minister of Health must respect this decision and ensure that both Mr. Williams and Mr. Clarke are provided with the health coverage they deserve. Rather than spend resources in litigation that hurts marginalized communities, the government should be spending its resources protecting the rights of those who are most marginalized,” said Jessica Ponting, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers.
IAVGO Community Legal Clinic handled the case on behalf of Clarke and Williams.
Justicia for Migrant Workers is a non-profit political collective that advocates for the rights of migrant workers.