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.
Photo credit: Sardar Saadi
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