Nova Scotia group calls for provincial health coverage for migrant workers

Patient finally gets MSI card after being diagnosed in 2022

Nova Scotia group calls for provincial health coverage for migrant workers
Source: No One Is Illegal - Nova Scotia Facebook post

One group in Nova Scotia is calling for the provincial government to provide health coverage for migrant workers outside of their employment.

“We do see this as an important case within this fight for access to health-care coverage for all migrant workers in the province,” said Stacey Gomez, manager of the migrant worker program with No One Is Illegal in Halifax, in a Saltwire report. “We’re calling on the provincial government to make MSI coverage available on arrival to all migrant workers. It’s important at the start.”

Many organizations and some in the agriculture industry are expressing support for Nova Scotia Health Card (MSI) on arrival for all migrant workers, Gomez said in the report.

The call came after a Jamaican migrant farm worker finally got her MSI card last week after fighting for medical coverage in the province since she was diagnosed with cervical cancer while she was still working in 2022, according to Saltwire.

Migrant workers’ cervical cancer diagnosis

In 2022, Kerian Burnett had been picking strawberries for two months on a farm in Colchester County, N.S., when she started to feel sick, according to CBC. She was fired from her job and was later diagnosed with cervical cancer. 

After two surgeries, Burnett had racked up about $81,000 in bills, according to the report.

Life on chemotherapy has been challenging for Burnett, according to Global News. She has been living with a colostomy bag and has numbness in her legs, and her day-to-day activities have been difficult. 

Still, she’s hoping to find her way back to work slowly. She has six children and one grandchild back in Jamaica.

Jamaican worker gets MSI card 

In 2023, Burnett got coverage from the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), which covered her cancer treatments. But the coverage, along with her temporary resident permit (TRP), was set to expire on January 10, 2024, according to CBC.

On Jan. 4 this year, Kerian received a positive decision on her request to renew her status and was granted a work permit through to July 4, 2025. Since she was granted the work permit, she was deemed eligible for MSI, according to the report.

"I'm overwhelmed with this news and I'm very happy about it," said Burnett, according to the report.

“We come here to Nova Scotia year after year to do work and we are part of your community and we pay taxes so we should get the same services as anybody else,” said Burnett, who continues to recover from cervical cancer.

No One Is Illegal’s Gomez said she has requested a meeting with Michelle Thompson, minister of health, to discuss the matter of MSI cards for migrant workers, but her request was denied, Global News reported.

However, the minister claimed she had not received requests for a discussion about migrants getting MSI early in the last 18 months, according to the report.

“We ask that people who travel here from outside of Nova Scotia come with insurance,” Gomez said in the report.

“That’s typical for folks who travel or work on shorter-term contracts. That is the reason we have it. The federal program asks that people show that they have private insurance.”