Federal government changes refugee rules in midstream

Dear editor,
I am a member of a small but vibrant group of people helping two refugee families from Syria settle in the Comox Valley.

Dear editor,I am a member of a small but vibrant group of people helping two refugee families from Syria settle in Canada. We are the Comox Valley Refugee Support Committee.We have raised about $60,000, which we thought would be enough to see them through their first year here, which is our sponsorship commitment. The situation in Syria was, and is, deteriorating to such a point that these families, of Palestinian origin, who had been living in Iraq until about  2007, and then fled to a United Nations refugee camp in Syria, were in danger of their lives.The United Church of Canada put out an urgent appeal last year for groups to undertake sponsorships of family groups. We have taken two families.The first one arrived in December 2011 and consists of parents and three daughters aged 17, 9 and 7. The second one came in February 2012, consisting of parents, three sons aged 18, 17 13, and four daughters aged 16, 11, 8 and 6. Altogether 14 people.With a lot of work and many donations of furniture, household goods, food, and now the nitty-gritty of making ourselves available for school runs, shopping expeditions, medical appointments, soccer games etc., both  families are settled in rented houses, the children are in ESL classes in area schools and the parents are studying English at North Island College.The Interim Federal Health Program has covered them so far for doctors’ visits, some needed medical  tests and dental and optometry visits. We expected this program to continue for a full year, as was promised, and we were  confident that before the families left our “protection,” their  basic health needs would have been met and outstanding medical issues solved.But now we are told the IFHP is changing as of June 30, and only emergency needs will be met.This is devastating to our group, as medications will no longer be covered, dental and eye care is out, as is laboratory, diagnostic and ambulance services, and even hospital services!Both the fathers have medical issues and both the mothers need  gynecological assessments. There are considerable dental needs for all of them. The children need to have proper assessments, and as with all children, there are bound to be some dental and optical needs, too. These people had been living in tents for the last five years, and medical services would have been limited!We are faced with huge increases in our monetary obligations, or, if we do not cover these costs and our families are deprived of these services net month, they run the risk of becoming a drain on the health care and welfare systems in the future.It starts them off at the bottom of Canadian society, which is not the outcome we expected or hoped for.This is so unfair to change the rules halfway through our commitment.We have good-hearted people here, with lots of potential to enrich Canadian society. They just need time to learn English and to fit into our western ways. Starting them off at a health disadvantage may be too devastating and cause obstacles that cannot be overcome.Liz Naish,Courtenay