Twelve national medical associations join call for Conservative government to drop reckless appeal of refugee health ruling

by: Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care | Press Release | Posted Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014

Christopher Holcroft, Principal, Empower Consulting
(416) 996 0767

[email protected]

Twelve national medical associations join call for Conservative government to drop reckless appeal of refugee health ruling

Toronto, October 20, 2014 – Twelve national medical associations including the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Pediatric Society and the College of Family Physicians of Canada are joining Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care in calling on the Conservative government to drop its appeal of the Federal Court’s ruling on refugee health cuts.

On July 4, Justice Mactavish of the Federal Court ruled that the cuts were “cruel and unusual treatment” and thus a violation of s. 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  The court also ruled that the health cuts breached the Charter’s s.15 equality guarantee. The government only recently, and at the very last minute, filed an appeal of the decision. It is also seeking a stay of the decision, arguments on which are expected to be heard later this month. Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care (CDRC), the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL), and Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY), all parties to the original court action, will be vigorously opposing both the stay and the appeal.

“There continues to be unprecedented, near unanimous opposition in the medical community to the Conservative government’s cuts to refugee health care,” said Dr. Meb Rashid, founding member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and medical director of the Crossroads Clinic at Women’s College Hospital. “The Court decision is very clear and persuasively made the fact-based arguments frontline health workers have been making for over two years. It’s time for the government to listen.”

Among the concerns expressed by the medical associations over the government’s appeal was the continued harm to refugees, the potential threat to public health and safety, and the increasing costs to taxpayers. In his organization’s letter to the Minister, CMA President Dr. Chris Simpson said the cuts have had “significant deleterious effects on the health of refugees”.

Since the government made changes to the IFHP in 2012, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and others have documented numerous examples of patients being denied care – including sick children and pregnant women fleeing sexual violence.

“The Minister’s reckless rhetoric on his government’s health cuts and their impact on vulnerable families are no longer fooling anyone,” said Dr. Philip Berger, founding member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and Medical Director, Inner City Health Program at St. Michael’s Hospital.  “The Minister should know when you are in a hole, you stop digging. He should drop the appeal and reverse the cuts now.”

The complete list of organizations that have written Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander are:

  • Canadian Medical Association
  • Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions
  • The Public Health Physicians of Canada
  • Canadian Nurses Association
  • College of Family Physicians of Canada
  • Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians
  • Canadian Psychiatric Association
  • Canadian Federation of Medical Students
  • Canadian Doctors for Medicare
  • Canadian Pediatric Society
  • Canadian Society of Internal Medicine
  • Canadian Association of Community Health Centres

The Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto has also submitted a letter.

These health care organizations are among a large number of national associations, provincial Premiers, legal experts, artists, faith-based groups, student organizations, and other Canadians that continue to call on the federal government to reverse the cuts to refugee health. In addition, a recent Forum opinion poll revealed Canadians are in favour of providing refugees with greater access to health care, not less.

More information is available on our website at


The Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care (CDRC) is a group of non-partisan physicians from across Canada, most of whom, treat refugees. CDRC was established in the spring of 2012 as an advocacy group singularly focused on persuading the federal government to rescind severe cuts to health care coverage for refugee claimants under the Interim Federal Health program. CDRC is also a co-litigant in a Charter challenge to the cuts and recently became a not-for-profit organization. Prior to the cuts, the Interim Federal Health program had provided insurance coverage to refugee claimants since 1957. This program included the full breadth of health services and medications equivalent to that received by individuals on social assistance. We seek to have the federal government reverse these cuts and restore basic health benefits to refugees.

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