Breaking down barriers so migrant teens with health issues can access medical care

New and ongoing global conflicts are forcing more and more people to flee their home countries. As a result, the number of migrants (refugees and immigrants) arriving in Canada is on the rise. Leaving everything you know and love behind isn't easy—family, friends, school, and home. Adapting to a new home and culture is challenging, particularly for teen migrants with chronic health problems. Numerous barriers (language, culture, lack of information on the healthcare system, etc.) prevent these teenagers from getting the care they need when they need it.

“Many migrant teens with chronic conditions arrive in Montreal in poor health. They may not have seen a doctor in months; their prescriptions may have run out. They may have braved challenging and traumatic experiences that heightened their risk for malnutrition, stress, anxiety, and other physical and mental problems,” explains Dr. Patricia Li, Pediatrician at The Montreal Children’s Hospital (The Children’s) and a researcher with the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. "We must support these children, particularly teenagers, so they learn the ins and outs of our healthcare system and their rights as patients to improve their access to care.”

To help this population, Dr. Li and her team at The Children’s Multicultural Clinic and the Compass Clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto developed a two-year pilot project called the Migrant Teen Navigator Program.

The Multicultural Clinic is thrilled to be the 2024 recipient of a $500,000 grant from TD in collaboration with CCHF. The Annual Initiative Grant was established in 2020 as part of TD’s 10-year commitment to CCHF through the TD Ready Commitment, the Bank's corporate citizenship platform, to address issues of top concern amongst adolescents.

Thanks to TD's funding through CCHF, the Multicultural Clinic will launch its navigator program at The Children’s in the coming months.

"By supporting equitable access to healthcare, TD is helping to create a more inclusive world, where everyone can believe in their future. Through the TD Ready Commitment, the Bank is pleased to support programs, such as this one, that ensure teens receive care that is tailored to their needs in a caring environment. Arriving in a new country comes with its own set of challenges, and I am proud that TD is supporting hospital foundations to facilitate this transition for newcomers and their families", mentioned Abe Adham, chair, Quebec Market, TD Bank Group.

Breaking down barriers

The barriers migrant teens and their families face include difficulty navigating the

complicated healthcare system, language barriers, cultural differences, discrimination, economic barriers, and issues related to geography and transportation.

Empowering teens so they can advocate for their healthcare rights

The goals of the Migrant Teen Navigator Program are to:

  • Minimize unnecessary emergency department and clinic visits and hospitalizations.
  • Address unmet care needs effectively.
  • Empower youth and parents with knowledge of their rights and tools for self-care and self-advocacy.
  • Support teens transitioning from pediatric to adult care.
  • Enhance participants' overall health and quality of life.

The Children’s expects the project to support approximately 200 to 300 migrant teenagers and their families over the next two years. The program will be co-designed with migrant teens and their parents to be tailored to their needs. 

Developing evidence-based clinical practice guidelines

The funding from TD will support research to assess the program's, providing evidence for clinical practice guidelines. The guidelines will allow pediatric hospitals and clinics across Canada and beyond to implement their Migrant Teen Navigator Program, broadening TD’s donation impact.

“The impacts of the grants made by TD Bank Group to support projects at Canada’s children’s hospitals cannot be overstated,” noted Adam Starkman, President & CEO of Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations. “The Migrant Teen Navigator Program will provide valuable learning and guidelines that can be shared across the larger network of children’s hospitals in Canada, allowing them to implement similar programs. As communities across Canada welcome new Canadians, the potential of this program is far-reaching and significant.”

"I am grateful to TD Bank Group and Canada's Children's Hospital Foundations. The Better Health Driver of the TD Ready Commitment makes the Migrant Teen Navigator Program a reality. Together, we reaffirm our commitment to championing the health and well-being of migrant youths, fostering a future where every child can thrive,” said Renée Vézina, President of The Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation.


Dr. Hema Patel, Pediatrician and Chief of General Pediatrics, The Montreal Children’s Hospital, Dr. Patricia Li, Pediatrician and Researcher, The Montreal Children’s Hospital, Abe Adham, President, Quebec Division, TD Bank Group, and Group Head, Quebec Corporate Finance, TD Securities, Renée Vézina, President of The Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation, Martine Alfonso, Associate President and Executive Director, McGill University Health Centre, Dr. Patricia Auger, Director, Multiculturalism Clinic, The Montreal Children’s Hospital, Adam Starkman, President and CEO, Children's Hospital Foundations of Canada