Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Author Whose Family Fled Nazis Raises Concern About Cuts to Refugee Health Care

Vancouver, B.C -As doctors and immigration experts across the country continue to protest recent cuts to refugees’ access to health services, recent comments from the federal government over the alleged drain of refugees on Canada’s health care system have concerned Canadian author and immigrant, Helen Waldstein Wilkes.

In Letters from the Lost: A Memoir of Discovery, Wilkes revisits her family’s journey from war-torn Czechoslovakia as they fled from the impending Nazi occupation. While her family was counted amongst the lucky to have escaped, they too faced obstacles in their new   life in Canada, not the least of which was discrimination. It concerns her that current government policy does not acknowledge the difficulties faced by immigrants and refugees.

“While my father had an exit visa when we left Europe, the experience my family went through serves to highlight how important it is that we wholly embrace refugees. When we cut  essential elements of well-being such as health services, it can be tantamount to putting the lives of refugees at risk. Is this different from refusing them refugee status in the first place? Either way, their lives are being put at risk.”

It is precisely why Wilkes felt it was important to write her own family’s story: “A lot of attention was paid to the experience of those who were trapped in Europe during the Second World War, but those who escaped faced an entirely different set of challenges.” Wilkes hopes that by reading her family’s story, that others will better understand the emotional toll the refugee and immigration experience takes on those involved. 

For more information about the book (published by Athabasca University Press) and the author are available at and visit her facebook page at


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