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Federal Court rules against Harper’s cuts to health care for refugees


The Council of Canadians welcomes the Federal Court judgement of Harper’s cuts to health care for refugees as ‘cruel and unusual’. The ruling gives the federal government until November to reinstate coverage for refugee claimants or have their rules struck down by the court.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has tweeted:

CBC reports, “The Federal Court is giving the government four months to change its cuts to refugee health care, threatening to strike down the changes. …In a decision released Friday, Judge Anne Mactavish ruled the federal cabinet has the power to make such changes and that the procedure was fair, but that the people affected by the changes are being subjected to ‘cruel and unusual’ treatment.”

The Harper government’s changes to health care for refugees were found to have violated Section 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states, “Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.”

In her 268-page decision, Mactavish writes, “The 2012 modifications to the [Interim Federal Health Program] potentially jeopardize the health, the safety and indeed the very lives, of these innocent and vulnerable children in a manner that shocks the conscience and outrages Canadian standards of decency. I have found as a fact that lives are being put at risk.” She also stated, “It puts their lives at risk, and perpetuates the stereotypical view that they are cheats, that their refugee claims are ‘bogus,’ and that they have come to Canada to abuse the generosity of Canadians. It undermines their dignity and serves to perpetuate the disadvantage suffered by members of an admittedly vulnerable, poor and disadvantaged group.”

Council of Canadians health care campaigner Adrienne Silnicki has previously explained, “These cuts include access to vision care, dental care, prescription drugs and mobility devices for all refugees. For many refugees it also includes restrictions on primary and basic health care. This includes medical assistance during emergencies like heart attacks and even during childbirth.”

We extend our congratulations to Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers who took this case to court.

For further background on this, please see Silnicki’s January 2014 blog Refugee health care in Federal Court, as well as the February 2013 blog Harper’s cuts to refugee health care challenged in Federal Court.