Liberals compromise health of immigrant communities by cutting vital service

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VANCOUVER – Despite the growing need for services for immigrant communities, the B.C. Liberals plan to close a successful English as a Second Language program that specifically serves students with mental health challenges, say New Democrats.

“Premier Christy Clark promised she would balance the budget without any program cuts to health care and education, but we have now learned that her Liberal government is shutting down an award-winning ESL program for citizens and immigrants struggling with mental illness,” said Vancouver-Mount Pleasant New Democrat MLA Jenny Kwan. “These short-sighted cuts extend into our immigrant communities, taking away resources from people who need them most.”

The Access Community Through English program, known as “ACE”, teaches ESL to immigrants and new Canadians with mental health challenges, in an environment that is free from prejudice and harassment.

According to Vancouver Coastal Health’s own internal documents: “Mental health consumers cope with considerable prejudice in our society, and experience multiple barriers to accessing health care and other services. When they do not have English language skills, it becomes even more difficult for them to communicate their health care needs, and to find ways to feel connected to the community around them.”

“Given the immense barriers these ESL students face, why would the Liberal government cut this critical mental health service to the immigrant community?” asked Kwan.

“Cutting this program will only further isolate a vulnerable group of people which could lead to hospitalization. That’s bad for the individuals and their families and bad for taxpayers,” said Kwan.

“ACE is an award-winning program and the only one of its kind in Canada. Without it, where does this government expect people to go?”

New Democrats are calling on the B.C. Liberals to ensure this invaluable program is not eliminated as a result of their desperate attempt to balance the budget on the backs of B.C.’s most vulnerable.