Conservatives urged to respect Federal Court’s ruling on refugee health care

by: Obert Madondo  | Published Tuesday, Oct 7, 2014

A protester sends a strong message against the Harper Conservatives' cuts to refugee healthcare during the June 2013 2nd National Day of Action on Parliament . (Photo: OBERT MADONDO/The Canadian Progressive)

A protester sends a strong message against the Harper Conservatives’ cuts to refugee healthcare during the June 2013 2nd National Day of Action on Parliament . (Photo: OBERT MADONDO/The Canadian Progressive)

A group of doctors dedicated to strengthening and improving Canada’s universal publicly-funded health care system is urging the Conservatives to drop their appeal against the Federal Court’s recent ruling on refugee health care funding.

In July, the Federal Court ruled that the Conservatives’ 2012 cancellation of federal health care for refugees under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) was “cruel and unusual” treatment of the “vulnerable, poor and disadvantaged” seeking Canada’s protection.

“With the 2012 changes to the Interim Federal Health Program, the executive branch of the Canadian 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,” Justice Anne Mactavish wrote in her a 268-page ruling.

She added that the cancellation “shocks the conscience and outrages Canadian standards of decency” and ordered the government to reinstate the funding.

Last week, the government announced that it will appeal the Court’s decision. The government also asked the Court of Appeal to stay the reinstatement order until the appeal is decided.

In a letter addressed to Chris Alexander, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Canadian Doctors for Medicare (CDM) asked to the Harper government reconsider its appeal and reverse the changes to the IFHP.

Dr. Monika Dutt, the chairperson of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, wrote:

As an organization driven by evidence-based findings we strongly believe that health care policy and actions should be supported by evidence. The Federal Court’s ruling noted that Ottawa’s cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) resulted in the “cruel and unusual” treatment of refugees. In addition, there is strong evidence provided by experts demonstrating that these changes have had significant detrimental effects on the health of refugees, in particular pregnant women and ill children. Lack of health care coverage through the IFHP is resulting in health care costs being incurred at the provincial level, often for health issues that could have been prevented.

Cuts to IFPH for refugees have put many health care providers in the impossible position of having to refuse care to people who are ill or risk contravening federal regulations. We strongly support the CMA’s call to the federal government to forgo an appeal of the court’s decision and to reverse the changes to the IFHP. Providing health coverage for refugees, a vulnerable population, is an integral part of our vision of having “a high-quality, equitable, sustainable health system built on innovations developed from the best available evidence.

The Federal Court case was sponsored by the Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care (CDRC), the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL), and Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY).

In a statement released last week, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care said the Federal Court’s ruling proved that the refugee health care cuts were “a violation of s. 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” and “inequitable and discriminatory.” The organization said government’s appeal was “cynical and irresponsible.”

“The Conservative Government is recklessly choosing to let vulnerable people, including pregnant women and ill children, suffer rather than accept the very clear and comprehensive decision of the court,” said Dr. Philip Berger, a founding member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care.

A recent Forum opinion poll revealed Canadians do not support the Conservatives’ decision to provide refugees with less access to health care. More than 20 national health organizations, federal political parties and provincial health minister have called on the government the racism-inspired cuts.

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based independent journalist and progressive political blogger. He's the publisher and editor of The Canadian Progressive.