Improving Vaccine Access for those without permanent residency status and migrants in Nova Scotia – An Open Letter to the Government of Nova Scotia

CUPE Nova Scotia has endorsed a letter sent to government earlier this week from the Nova Scotia Migration Research Forum – advocating & supporting vaccine access for migrant workers across the province.

For more information visit –

To: The Honourable Zach Churchill, Minister of Health and Wellness,  

We applaud the Government of Nova Scotia for making the Covid-19 vaccines available to all people, regardless of residency status and holding a provincial health card. This decision is aligned with the recommendations offered by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which affirms that: 

“COVID-19 vaccines will be made available to everyone in Canada for whom it is approved and recommended for use… This applies to all persons in Canada whether or not they are citizens.” (emphasis added) 

Further, it is consistent with the federal vaccination schedule released by the Government of Canada, which indicates that the vaccine will be available to those residing in shared living accommodation and that this should be extended to migrant workers.

While the decision is laudable in principle, a number of information-related barriers continue to impede the ability of migrant workers with temporary status, refugee claimants, and others with precarious legal status in Nova Scotia to access a COVID-19 vaccine. The Government of Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 website is an important and key resource for many. But inconsistent messaging, coupled with conflicting information from those charged with managing health care access on the ground will discourage migrant workers, refugee claimants, and others deemed “non-resident” from accessing the vaccine. Taking such measures is not only important for addressing the needs of these populations, but good for all Nova Scotians, as it will help facilitate and expedite a more effective and equitable vaccine rollout. 

We call on the Government of Nova Scotia to follow through on its stated commitments by ensuring meaningful and effective access to the vaccine for migrants, temporary residents, and people in the Province with precarious legal status. 

More specifically, we ask: 

  1. That the Province offer a clear statement on its website that speaks directly to the inclusion of all migrants residing in Nova Scotia regardless of legal status in the vaccine roll-out schedule. Here, we adapt useful language from the Government of Manitoba website: 

The vaccine will be made available, free of cost, for anyone who resides in Nova Scotia, regardless of their immigration and/or residency status. This includes refugee claimants, migrant workers, international students, dependent children of temporary residents, including temporary foreign workers, undocumented residents, and residents with lapsed legal status.

This commitment should also be communicated in accessible ways to these populations through relevant community organizations via pamphlets, posters, and other non-digital materials.  

  1. That the eligibility of all individuals be reinforced through targeted messaging to frontline health care providers to eliminate misinformation and/or the discretionary application of universal access policy, and that culturally pertinent information be available to migrants in relevant languages. 
  1. That the Province modify the “Before you start” instructions to clearly signal that Nova Scotia Health Cards are NOT required, and that other forms of identification are accepted. And that the Province develop a protocol that is well communicated to front-line health care workers for individuals without official identification documents. 
  1. That the Province put in place a protocol to ensure that rurally based migrant workers have equitable access to the vaccine, and that this protocol is communicated to employers. In line with the standards that apply for all people in Canada, these vaccines must not be mandatory or coercive. Moreover, workers must be provided clear guidelines about the value of vaccines, as well as their right to say no. Employers should be strongly encouraged to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated, including free transportation to vaccination sites.
  1. That provisions are made to migrants to access the vaccine at health care clinics which are known and accessible to them, and that at vaccination sites, translators and translated materials are available.  
  1. That the Province ensures that there will be no interference or involvement of, or information-sharing with, other governmental bodies (e.g., Canadian Border Services) during the process of accessing a vaccine. This will be indicated on the Province’s website and clearly communicated through migrant serving organizations. 

COVID-19 has brought into sharp relief the realities and impacts of social and economic disparity. It has exacerbated and capitalized on pre-existing inequalities generated by pervasive systemic discrimination, unevenly distributing the burdens associated with the disease amongst society’s most vulnerable—including migrants without permanent residency status. Indeed, these essential members of our community have, over the course of the last 13 months, worked on frontlines of care, food production and distribution, and sanitation. And yet, they are particularly at risk for infection and acute illness in a context that affords them little protection and access to health care. 

Given these realities, we, the undersigned, ask the Government of Nova Scotia to redress these potential barriers to an otherwise sound and universal public health policy by guaranteeing that those in the province with precarious legal and residency status have meaningful access to the Covid-19 vaccine, and moving forward, that equitable access to healthcare for all migrants regardless of their immigration status is ensured.  

Halifax Refugee Clinic

No one is illegal – Halifax/Kjipuktuk

Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) 

Immigrant Migrant Women’s Association of Halifax

Wellness Within: An Organization for Health & Justice

Nova Scotia College of Social Workers 

CUPE Nova Scotia 

Timothy Holland, MD | Family Medicine and Department of Bioethics, Dalhousie University; Chair, Committee on Ethics, Canadian Medical Association; Newcomer Health Clinic, Halifax

OmiSoore Dryden, PhD | James R. Johnston (JRJ) Chair in Black Canadian Studies; Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University; Co-President, Black Canadian Studies Association

Noni E. MacDonald, MD, MSc, OC | Professor, Pediatrics, Dalhousie University & IWK Health Centre

Françoise Baylis, CM, ONS, PhD, FRSC, FCAHS | University Research Professor, Dalhousie University

Leah Genge MD, CCFP AM, DTM&H, MSc | Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, Dalhousie University; Mobile Outreach Street Health (MOSH) – North End Community Health Centre; Direction 180; Spryfield Medical Centre

Sarah Fraser, MSc, MD, CCFP | Atlantic Board Representative Canadian Doctors for Medicare

Arundhati Dhara, MD, MPH, CCFP | Sipekne’katik Health Centre & Dartmouth General Hospital

Monika Dutt, MD | Public Health and Family Physician; Canadian Doctors for Medicare

Alyaa Abouzied, MD | Family Physician and GP Psychotherapist, Newcomer Health Clinic, Halifax

Sepideh Behroozan, MD | Family Physician, Newcomer Health Clinic, Halifax 

Christine Campbell, MD | Family Physician, Newcomer Health Clinic, Halifax

Christine Gulbrandsen, RN | Transition Coordinator, Newcomer Health Clinic, Halifax 

Jonathan Ross, MD | Family Physician, Newcomer Health Clinic, Halifax

Constance MacIntosh, LLB, MA | Viscount Bennett Professor of Law, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University

Janice E. Graham, PhD, FRSC, FCAHS | Division of Infectious Diseases, University Research Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Dalhousie University

Matthew Herder, JSM, LLM | Director, Health Law Institute; Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine & Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University

Alec Stratford, MSW, RSW | Executive Director/ Registrar, Nova Scotia College of Social Workers 

San Patten | College of Sustainability, Dalhousie University; Chair of Halifax Refugee Clinic

Ruben Zaiotti, PhD | Jean Monnet Chair in Public Diplomacy; Director, Jean Monnet European Union Centre of Excellence; Associate Professor, Political Science Department, Dalhousie University

Karen Foster, PhD | Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Rural Futures for Atlantic Canada, Associate Professor Sociology + Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University

Kiran Banerjee, PhD | Canada Research Chair in Forced Migration Governance and Refugee Protection, Assistant Professor, Political Science, Dalhousie University

Alexandra Dobrowolsky, PhD | Professor, Political Science, Saint Mary’s University 

Pauline Gardiner Barber, PhD | Professor Emeritus, Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University

Evangelia Tastsoglou, PhD | Professor, Sociology & International Development Studies, Saint Mary’s University

Ifeyinwa Mbakogu, PhD | Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Dalhousie University 

Raluca Bejan, PhD | Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Dalhousie University

Shiva Nourpanah, PhD | Adjunct Professor, Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University and International Development Studies, Saint Mary’s University; Provincial Coordinator, Transition House Association of Nova Scotia

Elizabeth Fitting, PhD | Associate Professor, Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University

Catherine Bryan, PhD | Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Dalhousie University

6 April 2021
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Please direct questions to Catherine Bryan at and/or Stacey Gomez at 

CC: Lena Metlege Diab, Minister, Department of Immigration + Population Growth, Nova Scotia

Rob Strang, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Nova Scotia 

Kevin Orrell, Deputy Minister, Department of Health and Wellness, Nova Scotia 

Gaynor Watson-Creed, co-chair of the Nova Scotia Vaccine Expert Panel 

Shelly McNeil, co-chair of the Nova Scotia Vaccine Expert Panel

Members of The Accessibility of COVID-19 Resources for Newcomers Working Group