Innovative campaign challenges Canadians to help refugees
By Aaron Epp | Friday, July 20, 2012
Canadian Mennonite University and Menno Simons College students Maureen Gathogo, Rianna Isaak, Cecilly Hildebrand and Matthew Dueck started the 59 Cents Campaign as part of a school assignment. Photo courtesy CMU
WINNIPEG, MB - A university assignment has turned into a national campaign challenging the federal government's decision to change the way it delivers supplemental health care coverage to refugees.
The 59 Cents Campaign launched in mid-June, growing out of a small group assignment in a one-week course on citizen advocacy at Canadian Mennonite University's Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP).
The campaign asks Canadians to send Prime Minister Stephen Harper 59 cents, which is the cost per Canadian it takes to give refugees the health care they need.
Watch the 59 Cents Campaign video.
"It's very important at a time like this in Canadian politics that we as citizens make sure the government knows what we're thinking," says Matthew Dueck, who was joined in the group by Maureen Gathogo and Deanna Zantingh. (Two more CMU studentsCecilly Hildebrand and Rianna Isaaklater joined the campaign to help spread the word.)
The purpose of the CSOP assignment was to create an advocacy campaign that could, in theory, be implemented in real life, Dueck says.
He adds that by the time the group made its presentation, its members realized there was nothing stopping them from moving beyond the theoretical and actually launching the campaign.
The group believes that recent changes to the Canadian Interim Federal Health Program, which supplies refugees with the medical help, are unacceptable. The group wants to see refugees given the health care they need.
While the federal government has not followed through on all the cuts it initially planned to make, Dueck says the campaign is moving forward because it wants to see a total reversal of all the cuts.
"There are still huge numbers of vulnerable people who are arriving in Canada who will be made even more vulnerable by the situation they're coming into," Dueck says.