Blatchford: Government policy on refugee health care exposed as heartless and shameful – and other Commentary

Some of the first commentary in the mainstream media on the refugee claimant health ruling, starting with Christie Blatchford of the National Post and her savage teardown of the Government:

But, in fact, Judge Mactavish found, if any of that is true, the government can’t demonstrate it and hasn’t done so.

The government’s own witnesses admitted the changes to the program were based on various “perceptions” and “beliefs.” From a “cost containment” perspective, the government offered no evidence that the changes “will in fact result in any real savings to Canadian taxpayers.” And Ottawa conceded “it has not carried out any research in order to determine whether denying health care as a means of deterrence has any empirical validity or chance of success.”

And there you have it: The government brought in a cruel and inhumane program aimed squarely at the most vulnerable people in the country, sold it in the basest way imaginable by appealing to the least generous impulses in us all and hasn’t proved it will save one red cent of the $91-million cost of the program (as of 2009-10).

(The judge drily noted that if the government really wants to save money, perhaps it could speed up the bloody process by appointing more members to the Immigration and Refugee Board.)

With the changes, she said, “the executive branch of the Canadian government intentionally set out to make the lives of these disadvantaged individuals even more difficult. It has done this in an effort to force those who have sought the protection of this country to leave Canada more quickly, and to deter others from coming here to seek protection.”

Judge Mactavish agreed with Dr. Paul Caulford, a family doctor and co-founder of a clinic for those without insurance, who said that sooner or later, “a refugee claimant will eventually die as a result of inadequate access to health care.”

Well, maybe that would deter people.

Christie Blatchford: Government policy on refugee health care exposed as heartless and shameful

And Kate Heartfield in the Citizen:

A policy that “shocks the conscience and outrages our standards of decency” is not defensible, politically and morally, even if it is legal. It is hard to argue against the court’s opinion that the government “has intentionally set out to make the lives of these disadvantaged individuals even more difficult than they already are in an effort to force those who have sought the protection of this country to leave Canada more quickly, and to deter others from coming here.”

This judgment might not be the final word on the constitutionality of refugee health care, but it’s a damning critique not only of a particular policy, but also of the way our government makes policy in general.

Refugee rules are bad policy, legal or not | Ottawa Citizen.

In Macleans, Aaron Wherry asks the obvious:

Whatever the courts decide, there is probably here a good basis for a real debate about what the government has done with the Interim Federal Health Program. That we should hope to limit abuse of the immigration and health care systems seems like a reasonable goal. The question here is how—and particularly whether the changes to the IFHP are a good way to go about doing that.

That we should have this sort of analysis now is surely useful, even if it might be odd that we should have to get it from a judge. If only we had some kind of public forum for the consideration and debate of such stuff. Perhaps if we did, we could delegate a committee to pick up this ruling, independently study it at length and propose a comprehensive response. That at least seems like the sort of thing we might elect people to do.

Do the cuts to refugee health care amount to good policy?

Christie Blatchford: What if Toronto man’s not a terrorist, but the middle-of-the-road Muslim his family says he is?

More quotes from the wiretaps of Mohammed Hersi and Blatchford insinuating that these are normal part of Muslim Canadian discourse:

But in the excerpts of wiretap recordings that were played for the jurors, though the focus was on Hersi’s interest in Al-Shabab, he also talked at length about his unhappiness with Canada and his longing to live as a real Muslim.

“But you know I … long term I wanna live in the Muslim land and never come back, right?” he told the UC once. “I wanna live in a Muslim country where I can be … practise my religion and be a good person right?”

His scorn for non-Muslims was evident.

“But talking to a non-Muslim about morality and shit, they don’t even know what morality is, Christians. You know what I mean?,” he said. “Talk to a Christian about morality and they believe Jesus died for all their sins, oh man. That’s [lunacy] right there,” he said.

In that same conversation, he said flatly, “I realize this country has no future for me in it.” In another, he recalled warmly the month he spent in Saudi Arabia, and how, “the life is very peaceful, I felt very at home my heart was content, you know?”

On one occasion, he told the agent, “Living in Somalia today is much better than living in Toronto ‘cause when you live in a place where there’s Islamic law, there’s harmony, there’s no more raping or murder.

“In Toronto, there is rape and murder happening right now every day every minute…”

She lost her religion altogether, right. Very tyrannical

Once, he talked to the agent about a Tunisian girl he’d read about online who was critical of the hijab.

“See how secular her mind is,” he said. “She’s against the hijab, this is something that’s from Islam, right?

“She’s against it, you know. Allah tells the believing woman to cover up, right? And she’s against it ‘cause she does … she lost her religion altogether, right. Very tyrannical.”

In other excerpts, Hersi talked admiringly about some of the sermons he’d heard at his mosque and how the imam there liked to slip in things he believed might pique the attention of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

As he put it once, though Canadians want mosques to talk faith and faith only, “politics is a part of Islam, right?”

Hersi came to Canada as a refugee when his mother fled the civil war there. Though raised in public housing, he managed to get a degree from the University of Toronto.

As prosecutor Jim Clark said, arguing that Hersi should receive the maximum five-year sentence for both offences for a total of 10 years, and that he should serve half before being eligible for parole, “What we have in Mr. Hersi is a smart, educated guy who knew full well what Al-Shabab was all about…”

Even if Mohamed Hersi is that rarest of birds, the man who really did want to join a bowling league precisely so he could not bowl, it’s a shattering prospect that he might also be what those who love him claim — a typical, middle-of-the-road Muslim.

Christie Blatchford: What if Toronto man’s not a terrorist, but the middle-of-the-road Muslim his family says he is?

CBC story on prosecution asking for maximum penalty of 10 years:

Federal prosecutor James Clark urged an Ontario Superior Court judge to condemn Hersi to 10 years in prison to set an example.

“Canada has an international obligation to prevent the exportation of terror,” Clark said in court in Brampton, Ont.

Hersi’s defence counsel Paul Slansky, who has already pledged to appeal, said his client should get three to four years, calling him “youthful and immature.”

Throw book at Ontario terrorism convict, Crown urges

Hersi is a likely candidate for revocation under the new Citizenship Act, given that he was convicted in a Canadian Court. But of course, his radicalization occurred in Canada (he came as a child) and he would be treated differently than a Canadian without dual nationality (or the right to same), raising Charter and related issues.

Of course, if the Government decides to revoke his citizenship, it would essentially be enabling the “exportation of terror.”

Christie Blatchford: Evangelical Christianity and aboriginal healing come together to battle transparency and accountability | National Post

Christie Blatchford on Makayla and her family’s decision to stop conventional treatment. I have sympathy with their situation; chemo and related treatments are brutal, and treatment success is generally measured only by 5 year remission rates. However, putting one’s faith in prayer and non-traditional treatments will most likely condemn Makayla to death:

The issues that ought to have been central to the correctness of those decisions — was this little girl capable of making her own decision, and she may well have been, and if not, were her parents acting in her best interests? – were never fully explored.

The authorities effectively looked away. As the result, Makayla is both receiving treatment from aboriginal healers at Six Nations, a reserve near her own, and counting on Jesus – the efficacy of both much in doubt except to fervent believers.

Indeed, if it’s difficult to reconstruct from public reports which came first in the little girl’s story – her religiosity or her aboriginal culture – it’s less tricky to establish which had the greater impact.

Christie Blatchford: Evangelical Christianity and aboriginal healing come together to battle transparency and accountability | National Post.