By Gloria Galloway, Globe and Mail, July 3, 2012
Doctors who treat refugees on a regular basis are taking issue with a federal decision to backtrack on cuts to health benefits for some asylum seekers but not others.
After defending its plan to eliminate supplemental health benefits for refugees, including payments for prescription drugs, vision care and dental coverage, the immigration department quietly rescinded the cuts last Friday – but only for people who are brought to Canada by the government through the Resettlement Assistance Program and for some victims of human smuggling.
While doctors praise the decision to keep the supplemental benefits in place for some refugees, they say all of the cuts to health-care benefits which took effect on June 30 should be rescinded.
Refugees sponsored by church groups and other humanitarian organizations, and those who arrive here seeking asylum after fleeing a country that Canada has deemed to be unsafe, are “out of luck,” Philip Berger, chief of family and community medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said in a telephone interview. They will be entitled to medical health coverage “only if of an urgent or essential nature” – a proviso that was removed last week for government-sponsored refugees.
Other cuts to refugee health services will remain in place. Treatment under the Interim Federal Health Program will be denied to refugees who come from a country that Canada has declared to be safe, and to those whose claims have been rejected but are still living in Canada. The only exceptions will be cases in which a disease poses a risk to public health or safety.
Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star, April 25, 2012
Ottawa will strip thousands of refugees of health-care coverage starting in July unless their conditions pose a threat to public health.
Critics called the move “mean-spirited” and warned that denial of health care could lead to unnecessary deaths.
“If this is what they are doing, there is no question that the application of this will result in people dying,” said lawyer Rick Goldman of the Canadian Council for Refugees.
Currently, all refugees are covered by the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), which provides basic health coverage, sometimes with supplementary services such as pharmaceutical care, dentistry, vision care and devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, if required.
As part of an overhaul of the asylum system that takes effects in July, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will establish a “safe country” list and expedite the processing of claims from these countries.
The plan announced Wednesday stipulates that rejected claimants and refugees from designated countries won’t be eligible for health care unless their conditions put the public at risk. All refugees will also be stripped of supplemental health coverage.
Although Kenney has not revealed the safe country list, Mexico and Hungary, which are likely to be designated, accounted for more than 5,000 asylum claims in Canada last year.
“These reforms allow us to protect public health and safety, ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely and defend the integrity of our immigration system all at the same time,” Kenney said in a statement.
Ottawa spent $84.6 million on the refugee health program in 2011. The changes will save the government $100 million over five years.
With that oft-touted "majority government" this government is quite literally trampling on the very politicies and practices that made Canada a "safe harbour" for refugees from all over the world. There is a new sign over the Canadian ports of entry today, proudly claiming "we want only healthy, skilled and productive economic units" so our labour shortages will be filled with high quality individuals to whom we will pay bargain basement wages"....
Refugees that, in some cases would have included the "boat people" from Vietnam in the late 1970's who would only be classed as refugees, will not longer be granted similar protection in terms of health care, until they become settled with their own jobs.
That experiment, recently revisited in stories about the young woman who will proudly wrestle for Canada at the London Olympic Games this summer, the daughter of those same "boat people," very few, if any, of whom, were out of work virtually since the day they arrived.
This government is placating their corporate friends through streamlining the immigration process for those skilled and healthy workers whose Canadian employers will take advantage of in less than adequate incomes, while at the same time effectively closing the door to refugees whose health, in many cases because of their refugee status, is less than perfect.
Shut down Katimivak, close the health care for refugees, (unless that health risk is a danger to Canadians), throw thousands more into prisons for longer terms, close treatment facilities for prisoners with psychiatric conditions like the one in Quebec...fail to house, educate and heal First Nations people in Attawapiskat and in dozens of other heinous living conditions on many reserves.....but be sure to spend $9 billion on fighter jets...and another $10 billion on new ships, both armed and unarmed....and another X billions on 2700 new prison cells....this is a government from Hell!
It is neither Canadian, in terms of loyalty to the Canadian traditions of compassion, and rehabilitation and openness nor is it one that can be proud of its eunuch-like approach to the environment.
Just another sign that, one hopes, Canadians will remember in 2015, when another federal election is called, so that enough X's will be marked for opposition candidates to turf the conservatives out.