Tiny Nunavut Shows the Way on Universal Health Care: Report from Canadian Snowbird Association

Report Card reveals most provinces breaching the Canada Health Act

TORONTO, Oct. 22, 2002 – Only the Canadian territories are living up to the requirement of the Canada Health Act to provide portable, universal health care for the more than 47 million trips Canadians take abroad each year, according to the Canadian Travellers’ Report Card released today by the Canadian Snowbird Association.

“The pledge that our tax-funded Canadian health care would be portable and available to all Canadians is a broken promise for many travellers,” said Ellen White, president of the Canadian Snowbird Association. “Now more than ever, as Mr. Romanow and other leaders look at our health-care system, the talk about universality and portability must be supported through action.”

Overall grades awarded as an average across all categories are as follows:

Nunavut: B+ Manitoba: C+
Yukon: B+ Newfoundland: C
Northwest Territories: B- Nova Scotia: C
Alberta: B- Saskatchewan: C
Government of Canada: B- Ontario: C
Quebec: C+ British Columbia: C-
PEI: C+ New Brunswick: D+

The thinly populated territories provide health coverage to residents who require emergency health services while travelling at the same rate as if the emergency had occurred while at home — as required by the Canada Health Act. More populous provinces such as B.C., Alberta and Quebec provide only token coverage for their citizens who have emergencies while travelling. Likewise, many governments threaten to cut off medicare for tax-paying, home-owning
Canadians if they are out of the province for more than six months, denying them access to the universal health care promised to all citizens.

“Where Canadians happen to be when an emergency occurs should not be an excuse for some provinces to avoid responsibility to provide needed assistance,” said Paul Jenkins, chair of the CSA’s Government Relations Committee. “Neither should Canadian citizens, who have paid taxes all their lives and now do some longer-term travelling, have health coverage denied by governments who are looking for ways to reduce their health-care commitments.”

Following its recent success in convincing the United States Congress to revisit proposed INS regulations that could possibly restrict Canadians travelling in the U.S. to short periods, the CSA is turning its attention to governments here at home, pressing them to adopt policies that are sensitive to the needs of Canadian travellers and which do not leave Canadian citizens unprotected.

In addition to reviewing access to emergency care while travelling, the report evaluates governments on how frequently Canadians may travel and still receive health coverage, how government prescription drug programs are applied to travellers, accessibility of distance voting during elections, and the availability of clear government information on these services and policies.

The Canadian Snowbird Association is a non-profit, non-partisan organization representing Canadian travellers from across the country. The CSA works in partnership with government and business to educate and advocate on behalf of all travelling Canadians, helping to ensure access to safe, healthy travel with no restrictions on freedom of movement.