Taxi drivers in Toronto have finally been prioritized for COVID-19 shots – not by Ontario’s healthcare system, but by the Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Healthcare.
“I’ve given up on government, but the interviews were not a waste of time,” says Beck Taxi Operations Manager Kristine Hubbard, who spent several weeks giving interviews to media outlets interested in covering the fact that although taxi drivers are designated “essential workers,” they have not been prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines or eligible for any of the small business grants or funding being distributed to other, non-essential businesses.
“The manager of the Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Healthcare (CCRIH) saw me pleading for vaccines for taxi drivers on the CBC and tracked me down,” Hubbard explains. “She said, ‘I have a spreadsheet with 20 appointments which have not been filled. Send your drivers to us.’”
Hubbard has been scrambling to make sure every Beck driver that meets the CCRIH criteria gets to the Centre for a COVID-19 vaccination. At present, 56 drivers have received their vaccination from CCRIH while many others now qualify for the provincial program by virtue of their age.
The most important thing Hubbard learned through this experience, she says, is “That there are good people out there. There is so much goodness out there. Not necessarily from the government staff that get paid to do good things, but there are a lot of good people out there, doing wonderful things.”
As described on the CCRIH website, “CCRIH was the first volunteer medical clinic in Canada dedicated to refugees and immigrants. In 1999, a borrowed church basement in a Toronto suburb became home to a new and innovative kind of refugee and immigrant health centre. A clinic operated by a handful of volunteer doctors, nurses and community members began providing free healthcare to newcomers to Canada who found it difficult, often impossible to obtain the medical treatment they needed.”