The Manitoba Alliance of Post-Secondary Students (MAPSS) recently submitted a proposal to the province of Manitoba calling for the reinstatement of free health care for international students.
In 2018, the province cut universal health care for international students in order to save a reported 3.1 million dollars. Nearly a year later, the Manitoba government estimated that international students contributed over 400 million dollars to Manitoba’s GDP.
UMSU vice-president advocacy and MAPSS chair Victoria Romero said that international students are imperative to the University of Manitoba and the province. Romero said it is disappointing to see a group that contributes economically, culturally and intellectually in Manitoba not be valued by the government.
“Since the moment the provincial government revoked international student health care coverage in 2018, this has been something that’s been of utmost priority for MAPSS and for UMSU as well,” she said.
Romero said MAPSS was unsuccessful in its attempts to sit down with the provincial government to work out a costed proposal last year. With a provincial election on the horizon, she thinks now is the perfect time to advocate for the restoration of fully cost-free international student health care.
Romero said that the proposal has been submitted for review by Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration Jon Reyes.
She stated that due to a lack of engagement from the province, MAPSS is hoping to set up a coalition with the provincial NDP and Liberal parties. Romero said that MAPSS plans to present them with the proposal and a petition that she has requested both parties read in the house. She said the reading in the house will enable the number of petition signees, as well as the government’s decision, to become part of legislative record.
On Sept. 28, MAPSS will be holding a rally in support of international student health care at the Manitoba Legislative Building.
“We‘re going to have representation from all of our member schools, which again is UM, the U of W, Assiniboine Community College and Red River College Polytechnic,” Romero said.
“We‘ve been planning it for a couple months, and this is our opportunity to really show the physical manifestation of the support and how many people this is impacting, so hopefully we send a good message.”
UMSU international community representative Kunal Rajpal will also be attending the rally.
Rajpal said that it is unfair to charge international students for health care, as they are still attempting to learn how health care in the province works and are already dealing with the stresses of moving to a foreign country.
He added that he feels inflation, a low minimum wage and the housing crisis have also made Manitoba an unattractive home for prospective international students and immigrants.
“Health care is a human right,” he said.
“We‘re not asking for anything new. Before 2018 we had public health care, we had health cards and we were treated like a domestic student[s].”
In the meantime, Rajpal encourages international students to make sure they fully understand their insurance plans. He pointed to resources on the U of M and the Manitoba International Student Health Plan website.
According to Rajpal, the next best thing students can do is continue to advocate for free international student health care.
“I see it as something that is rightfully ours,” he said.
“The government was giving us healthcare in 2018 with less than $3.1 million, and to save that they took it away.
“In my opinion, that was a wrong financial decision, because we’re bringing in way more than
compared to what they have to spend.”