Cruel to take health care away from refugee claimants – Globe and Star Editorials

Harper Flesh WoundNot much support for the Government on the refugee claimant healthcare cuts, starting with the Globe’s editorial:

The problems with the federal cuts to refugee health care begin with the rationale used by government to introduce them in the first place: cost, deterring false refugee claims and equity – the idea that refugees are receiving better health care than Canadians. The court found the government wrong on all counts.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander defended the cuts by saying they would save taxpayers $100-million over five years. The calculation was always suspect. It never factored in hidden costs, such as those incurred by neglecting certain health conditions as a result of no coverage. Mr. Alexander consistently argued that any refugee with a serious illness could still turn to hospital emergency rooms, as if that came at no cost. The government also argued the cuts would reduce the number of bogus refugees coming to Canada simply to access the country’s health care. Ottawa’s decision to penalize potential offenders by depriving every claimant in that category of health care is a kind of collective punishment. A court of law presumes innocence until guilt is proven. When it comes to refugee claimants, Ottawa should at least extend the same benefit of the doubt.

The Federal Court ruling reverses the government’s dumb cuts to refugee health care. There’s a legitimate concern about bogus refugee claimants abusing the system. This health care policy, a weapon that has now come back to wound its creator, was never the right way to deal with the problem.

Cruel to take health care away from refugee claimants – The Globe and Mail.

Predictably, from the Star:

While the Canadian Medical Association cheered the ruling as “a victory for reasonable compassion and a big step for natural justice,” Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander intends to appeal. A less obtuse government would have been shamed into retreat, given the string of humiliating court defeats the Conservatives have suffered over Harper’s clumsy attempt to shoehorn an unqualified judge onto the Supreme Court, his hugely flawed law-and-order agenda and his unlawful bid to change the Senate. But this government is shameless. Alexander has even attacked Ontario for trying to plug the gap, accusing officials of coddling “bogus claimants” and “fraudsters.”

Federal Court rightly strikes down Harper’s refugee health-care cuts: Editorial

And prior to the Federal Court ruling, from the Calgary Herald (not just the suspect Toronto media):

A national day of action was held Monday by health-care professionals, people one doesn’t usually associate with protests and public forms of advocacy. The federal government should live up to its obligations and reinstate medical coverage for all refugees — not just those with the greatest chance of having a legitimate claim. If it wants to protect taxpayers, the government can do so by handling refugees claims in a timely fashion and sending those who are found lacking back home as quickly as possible. But under no circumstances should refugees — many of them already victims of abuse — be made to needlessly suffer.

Editorial: Reinstate refugees’ medical coverage

And Jon Kay in the National Post:

The moral relativist tries to blur the line between us and them. The punitive moral absolutist, on the other hand, paints the line stark and thick, and turns politics into a game of inflicting symbolic cruelties on the people on the wrong side of it. Thus, Tory criminal-justice policy consists of finding new and gratuitous ways to make life harsher for convicts — including taking away their rights to receive visitors, and eliminating widely lauded prison-work programs. Canada is one of the safest countries in the world, and has been getting safer for decades. But prisoners — like diabetic migrants — have no politically influential constituency, so tightening the screws on them scores well at poll-driven Tory brainstorming sessions.

When it comes to performing the same stunt on migrants, the irony is that the current Immigration Minister, former ambassador to Afghanistan and UN official Chris Alexander, has done more than just about any other Canadian to help the population of one of the most destitute nations on earth. Yet now that he is back on Canadian soil, he has been tasked with a policy aimed at denying health benefits to vulnerable people who have come to our shores.

Canada’s valuable post-9/11 work in Afghanistan — building schools for girls, and creating a democracy — was a powerful rebuke to the moral relativist idea that no system of values is better than any other. But as last week’s Federal Court ruling demonstrates, not every issue should be treated with the same aggressive us-vs.-them spirit.

Jonathan Kay: The refugee health-care decision lays bare Harper’s creed — punitive moral absolutism

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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