Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Health Care


AUDIENCE   Settlement, social and health service providers

POPULATION OF INTEREST   Immigrants and refugees

LOCATION   Toronto, ON

THE NEED   Many newcomers fall through the cracks in Canada’s healthcare systems as service providers, due to varying factors, find it difficult to know who qualifies for care and who does not.

WHAT'S PROMISING   This is a free-of-charge Centre that is available to all newcomers who are uninsured or precariously insured – thus dismantling accessibility barriers for those seeking physical and mental health care upon arrival and initial settlement in Canada.

KEY TAKEAWAY   The Centre is volunteer-run and consists of an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals – making this a one-stop hub-model for service provision. In addition, if a newcomer does not have access to a family physician, they are able to call to book an appointment by self-referral.

Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Health Care (CCRIHC)

The Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Health Care aims to provide humanitarian medical treatment and assistance to those new to Canada who find themselves medically uninsured and precariously insured. Many newcomers fall through the cracks of Canada’s health care system and are placed within medical limbo.

Service providers, due to varying factors, find it difficult to know who qualifies for care and who does not. This results in several newcomers who need both basic and urgent medical, dental, and psychosocial care turned away. For example, refugees making claims for asylum in Canada are often caught in healthcare limbo without any health insurance when claims are denied or interrupted. In addition, government-assisted refugees are frequently turned away for medical care by doctors and clinics who will not accept their Canadian Federal Health Insurance coverage and new permanent residents accepted by Canada must go without healthcare access for 90 days.

CCRIHC was the first volunteer medical clinic in Canada dedicated to refugees and immigrants. In 1999, the clinic opened with 3 volunteers in a borrowed church basement in a Toronto suburb, and 17 uninsured newcomers were treated. The Centre is a modern medical community clinic with 70 volunteer nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, and dentists with allied provider support staff that provides medical, dental, mental health and social care.

The Centre provides wrap-around healthcare services for immigrants and refugees, including:

  • Community Volunteer Clinic
  • Urban Dental Clinic
  • Pediatrics Outreach Program
  • SWAN Program
  • Dietitian Program
  • Chiropody Program
  • Diabetes Strong

It also includes a mental health program that provides free, private and confidential counselling for issues related to the unique experiences of refugees and newcomers in their lives prior to arrival, during their journey to Canada and upon settling in the Greater Toronto Area.

The mental health team is comprised of experienced counsellors such as registered social workers/registered psychotherapists who are specialized in culturally-sensitive, trauma-informed psychotherapy for diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental illnesses. They also provide short-term counselling and referral for psychosocial problems. In addition, support, referral, and advocacy is provided for issues of emergency housing, food access and local community services.

Family physicians and other healthcare providers can make referrals to the Centre. If newcomers do not have a family physician, they are able to call to schedule an appointment and/or be put on a waitlist at the clinic.

For more information on CCRIHC: click here.

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