Health Care For All?


CO-WRITER: Anne Mantini

PRODUCERS: Isabelle Couture & Katarina Soukup, CatBird Productions




Health Care for All? takes us into the specialized world of health care for uninsured refugees and to the frontlines of providing care to the most traumatized, neglected and vulnerable in Canada. Centred around the Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Health in Scarborough, a volunteer clinic run by Dr. Paul Caulford, we witness this unknown world through the eyes of doctors, nurses, psychologists, and their asylum-seeking patients who have spent years fleeing war, famine and brutal dictatorships, and come to Canada in search of safety and security for themselves, their families and their children.

Despite a system that welcomes asylum-seekers, many find themselves without medical coverage or access to health care. Their unique medical needs, both physical and psychological, challenge our health care system and throw into question what it means to provide fair, equitable and universal health care. Today, staff volunteer countless hours—fighting fatigue and burnout, a misinformed and apathetic public and shifting government policy—to ensure that the most at-risk patients in Canada are cared for.

Canada has a long history of welcoming asylum-seekers and providing care when they have reached our soil. We pride ourselves on our universal health care system, which has become a fundamental piece of the Canadian identity. With increased conflict creating huge numbers of displaced people across the planet, how does Canada’s universal health care system meet this humanitarian challenge? What are the obstacles to care? Who is shut out and who slips through the cracks? What does Canada owe refugees who arrive at our borders?


At the buzzing and chaotic clinic we are introduced to the film’s characters and begin to understand the system that has left them uninsured. We follow the interwoven narratives of Dr. Paul Caulford, his team and four of their patients over the course of one year, from examination rooms to homeless shelters, through births and surgeries, from celebrations of birthdays and successful refugee claims to the stress of failed claims and the pain of deportation notices. Through the characters’ journeys of healing physical and emotional damage as they strive to move forward into new, safe and healthy lives in Canada, we see a health care system that is failing many of the most at-risk in the country.

A handful of health care workers must take on the immense responsibility of filling the gap in the current health care system; on their shoulders, they must uphold the value system Canadians hold dear—a system that cannot be sustained by so few. They’re fighting for public support and policy change. And they’re struggling to hang on.