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Refugee Healthcare Cuts: Why Mobilization Matters and What You Can Do to Join in

Refugee Healthcare Cuts: Why Mobilization Matters and What You Can Do to Join in
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NOTE: This is a guest post from Ritika Goel, a family physician and public health professional in Toronto.

On April 25, Jason Kenney, our Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, announced cuts to Canada’s refugee health insurance, to go into effect the day before Canada Day. What followed has been an unprecedented mobilization across the country denouncing these cuts.

Arguments have been made on multiple bases: the unfairness and cruelty of these cuts, the harm to the health of individual refugees, the public health issues that affect others in Canada and the increased costs which will be borne from unnecessary preventable disease complications. Many have also noted that these cuts to refugee healthcare fit in with this government’s ongoing attack on migrants, be it the halt on family sponsorships, the decrease in pay for temporary foreign workers, the lowered acceptance rates for refugees or the ongoing marginalization of undocumented people.

Since the cuts were announced, umpteen letters have been written to Kenney including two jointly signed by the major health professional organizations in Canada representing doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, social workers and optometrists. On May 11, ninety doctors occupied an MP’s office in Toronto. Health providers across the country have been involved in public protests and disruptions of Conservative ministers‘ speeches. A former refugee too engaged in such a disruption and got arrested. A monitoring tool has been developed to keep track of the inevitable negative health impacts resulting from this policy. The Anglican Diocese in Manitoba are suing the federal government over costs borne to private sponsors of refugees. A campaign called the ‘We Refuse to Cooperate Campaign‘ has been launched for people to post up their photos showing their own reasons for denouncing the refugee health cuts. Another campaign has people sending in 59 cents to Stephen Harper to replace the supposed savings from these cuts. Countless interviews and media stunts have been done, articles written and op-eds published.

It would appear that everyone agrees — these cuts are bad idea, yet Kenney has responded to this mobilization only by continually misleading people. He says that he is only cutting ‘gold-plated’ healthcare for ‘bogus refugees and illegal immigrants’. He has even put a petition on his own website thanking himself for these cuts leading to some embarrassing news coverage.

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Photo credit: Sardar Saadi

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13 comments

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10:36AM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Come on Canada, you can do better than this, can't you????????

9:17AM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Are we nothing more than the grunts who pay the bills for others? Expendable? No, I don’t think that I’ll be signing anything. I don’t think that I have a problem declining the use of our tax dollars to fund things which my own family cannot afford. Sorry if that sounds churlish..

9:16AM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Well, I’m rather torn on this one, altruism aside. It is my understanding, which seems to be confirmed by the following sentence that “These cuts to refugee health mean that all refugees, except the government-assisted, will no longer have access to medicines, dental care and vision care –something all provinces provide for low-income people.” Umm, I’m not sure that I have a problem with that. My great- great grandparents paid taxes in this country their entire lives as did my grandparents, parents , myself and my children. Yet my son cannot afford to go to the dentist or get new eyeglasses. While I too wish that the taxpayers of this country could be a bottomless source of support for the rest of the world, I don’t think that’s really possible. I ask myself why should our tax dollars go to pay for these so called “gold plated” health care items for those who have contributed nothing, while those who are actually supporting the system cannot afford these same “essentials”? Why are they only essential for incoming people and not those already here? “On a human level, what these cuts mean for people is a deterioration in their health status, an increase in fear and vulnerability, as well as on a societal level, an increase in preventable downstream costs for us all.” Why doesn’t this statement apply to those people who are already tax paying citizens of this country? Are we nothing more than the grunts who

4:45AM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Noted.

2:11AM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

thanks for sharing

6:04PM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

Ok. I feel like I spent time reading three pages for... What? I really have enough problems with my own health and health care. Sorry, I feel bad for these people.

5:08PM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

I am glad people of conscience are speaking up in large numbers and publicly

5:08PM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

Noted. Thanks.

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