After being stopped by the Federal Court from depriving refugee claimants and other non-permanent residents access to health care, the Conservative government is going after these people once again by limiting their access to health care and social assistance.
In their proposed omnibus budget bill, C-43 sections 172 and 173, the Conservatives have smuggled in legislation that will allow the provinces to deny social assistance to refugee claimants and others who lack permanent residency status.
We put our a press release this morning saying we were going to go to Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s office to present an open letter and petition signed by over 160 organizations that are opposed the stripping of refugee and non-permanent residents’ rights. Signatories to the open letter include health professional organizations, community health centres, community legal clinics, refugee shelters, student groups, activist organizations and more.
“This move would make life miserable for refugees, vulnerable non-citizens, and those with precarious immigration status. We against the xenophobia, racism and outright callousness displayed by the federal government.” says Michael Butler, Health Care Campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “The Conservative government is needlessly spiteful to those who are the most marginalized and affected by poverty, those who need assistance the most. This bill in reality removes vital support at the time when people need it the most, and many will be unable to feed, house, or clothe themselves and their families. We know that poverty leads to poor health outcomes, so denying basic social benefits when people are the most vulnerable will only exacerbate this issue. This bill is simply cruel.”
“I want to point out we hear the myth again and again that our system is overburdened by ‘bogus’ refugee claimants, as opposed to ‘real’ refugees. Community groups across the country are saying this is the false dichotomy and dog whistle politics. It creates an erroneous but convenient scapegoat in the form of ‘the foreign freeloader’. By dehumanizing refugee claimants and raising the specter of cheat in our midst, this strategy is designed to shift the conversation from the real impacts of the government’s decisions on these people and legitimizes a space for discreet racism. We are here to fight this fictitious narrative.”
This bill in reality removes vital support at the time when people need it the most, and many will be unable to feed, house, or clothe themselves and their families. We know that poverty leads to poor health outcomes, so denying basic social benefits when people are the most vulnerable will only exacerbate this issue. This bill is simply another example of cruel and unusual treatment.
Two months ago, a Conservative private member’s bill, C-585, proposed similar changes, which were rolled into C-43.
“Refugee claimants are among the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Ritika Goel, a member of Health for All. “To deny them access to what is often their only source of income would be cruel and in direct violation of Canada’s stated commitments to international human rights law.”
“Canadians have spoken – we are a country that protects and cares for all its residents,” says RNAO Chief Executive Officer Doris Grinspun “So why is our government fighting so hard to change this?”
We are calling on Minister Oliver and the Conservative government to immediately withdraw the appalling sections 172 and 173 from Bill C-43.
To see more pictures and tweets from today’s event please see: here
For background on this issue see: