Ottawa to cut healthcare for some refugees

The Canadian government through Minister Jason Kenney announced that it will cut down on the health budget spent for some refugees by July unless these refugees pose a threat to public safety.

At present Canada spends roughly $80 million for a program known as the Interim Federal Health Program that provides for medical benefits for refugees with a supplementary feature that provides for dental, optical , pharmaceutical care, wheelchairs and other devices.

This cost cutting measure is designed to save the government at least $100 million in the next 5 years.

The revised asylum program will feature a designated “safe country list” where asylum seekers from these countries will be processed immediately and rejected candidates will not receive any supplemental medical care unless their conditions pose a threat to the public. It is expected that Mexico and Hungary will be designated in the list and will affect future applicants that numbered almost 5,000 in 2011.

Critics have branded this move as mean spirited while Minister Kenney defended it by saying that it will protect the integrity of the Canadian immigration system and it will save money.

Personally I believe that this program is a knee jerk reaction to the strong clamor of a vocal minority in Canadian society that is complaining about the “perks” that refugees enjoy upon being accepted here in Canada as compared with the average Canadian born or naturalized citizen. Some people are complaining that it is better to be a refugee than to be a regular taxpaying citizen because all these health benefits are enjoyed as part of a perceived partiality of the government towards refugees rather than to its own citizens.

In an atmosphere of economic certainty and hardship the most visible sign of impartiality is the first one to be noticed. Refugees even if they are the most vulnerable and in need of protection and medical care will always be scorned because they are considered to be a burden that the government is spending on. It is understandable that economically challenged Canadian citizens will feel betrayed by the government if they themselves are hard pressed and having trouble with their own health.

Unfortunately while the numbers and the figures all add up with the bean counters and this program satisfies the demand for fiscal prudence in the face of a massive budget cut, it is the poor refugee who has just escaped from persecution and even torture that will suffer.

In the end, Canada may have to reconsider if its actions still conform to its values or are we are slowly but surely changing into an efficient, cold blooded and mean spirited society that no longer cares for the poor and the oppressed.

Tony Santiago
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku

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