Harper says only bogus refugees are denied health care. He’s wrong.

Good piece in Macleans:

Prime Minister Harper was indignant: “We have not taken away health care from immigrants and refugees. On the contrary, the only time we’ve removed it is where we had clearly bogus refugees who have been refused and turned down. We do not offer them a better health care plan than the ordinary Canadian can receive. That is not something that new and existing and old-stock Canadians agree with.”

Harper’s reference to “old-stock Canadians” got lots of attention. But what’s far more shocking, say refugee experts, is his stony denial of the truth: that the Conservative government has diminished the medical insurance provided to most refugees in Canada—tens of thousands of them, in fact.

As Maclean’s recently reported, the Conservative government made cuts to the Interim Federal Health (IFH) program in 2012 that drastically reduced the medical insurance provided to refugees who are privately sponsored or who make a refugee claim upon arriving in Canada. The two groups represent 59,285 of the refugees who came to Canada between 2012 and 2014, show the latest data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The cuts also affect more than 7,000 “legacy claimants” who arrived before December 2012 and are awaiting their claim hearing, according to the Canadian Council for Refugees.

These groups of refugees no longer have health insurance for prescription medications, and “supplemental” coverage for services such as prosthetics, physiotherapy and counselling, as well as emergency dental and vision care. (Pregnant women and children have been granted temporary coverage for medications, until the federal Court of Appeal decides later this year whether the cuts should be reversed. Children also receive supplemental coverage.)

The only group not affected by the IFH cuts is government-assisted refugees, of which 18,646 were resettled in Canada between 2012 and 2014. They receive the same health insurance as the lowest-income Canadians.

“They’ve repeatedly tried to sell the cuts to the public by saying they are only taking away gold-plated health care from bogus refugees,” says Dr. Hasan Sheikh, an Ottawa physician and member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, of the Conservative government. “That is absolutely not true.”
Harper’s reference to “bogus claimants” during the debate is particularly noteworthy—and cringe-worthy, say refugee advocates. It’s a term that’s been used by Harper, as well as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander, and his predecessor Jason Kenney, many times since 2012, as well as by other Conservative MPs during debates in the House of Commons.

Source: Harper says only bogus refugees are denied health care. He’s wrong.

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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