Newcomer Employment & Health Insurance Challenges in Canada

Whether an immigrant or a refugee, all newcomers face many barriers when arriving in Canada. The challenges of adjusting to life in a new country are unique for each family. However, there are some struggles that many newcomers have in common.

One specific challenge I’ve noticed while supporting newcomer families in our community is employment and health insurance.

Federal & Provincial Assistance for Newcomers

When refugees come to Canada they typically receive financial support from the federal government that lasts up to one year. Along with this financial support they are eligible for health coverage.

The support program is called: Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP)

After this, most refugees will apply for financial assistance from their provincial government until they are ready to enter the workforce.

In Saskatchewan this program is called Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) and also provides supplementary health benefits.

After Assistance…

Both the newcomer’s provincial and federal coverage insures most medical costs. However, this changes after they secure employment.

Once they have a job – their financial support and corresponding coverage is cut.

There is a small earned income exemption for those on income assistance. Although, most part time jobs earn more than the exemption which puts many newcomer families in a tough place financially.

Most newcomers with part-time jobs are being cut off of assistance and are struggling to make ends meet.

The Challenge for Newcomers

Due to a lack of recognition of previous education and work experience newcomers are having to work precarious, temporary or part-time jobs.

Many of these types of jobs don’t offer health insurance benefits. This puts even more financial strain on families that are often struggling already.

Newcomer families feel secure knowing their medical costs are covered while on assistance. They worry about how they will manage after they find employment. They may think…

  • What if the only job I can get doesn’t provide any health coverage?
  • Will the coverage I receive from this new job be inadequate compared to what I’ve received on assistance?

The Bottom Line

Newcomers should be given incentive to work and shouldn’t have to sacrifice their health when transitioning from federal/provincial assistance to employment.

What happens if newcomers can’t afford dental, optometry, prescriptions, and other health related costs? Both their mental & physical health along with their quality of life will deteriorate.

This is just one of the ways that newcomers can fall through the cracks.

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