After a ruling by the Federal Court on Friday, failed refugee claimants, and those from safe countries, will once again be eligible for healthcare on the federal dime.
The Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Chris Alexander, said “failed claimants and those from safe countries like the U.S. or Europe should not be entitled to better health care than Canadians receive,” which seems like a reasonable proposition on its face.
Essentially, the refugee claimant system is split in two. There are those who are from specific countries designated by the government, typically with massive conflicts and where their lives are considered to be in severe danger, and those who are just trying to claim refugee status in Canada despite coming from safe countries (like the U.S. and Europe). It is worth noting that Canada resettles 1 our of every 10 resettled refugee in the world, a statistic that the government uses to prove that they don’t actually hate refugees, despite the rhetoric.
The government’s proposed changes still provided healthcare to the refugees coming from dangerous areas, but cut benefits for those from safe countries until after their claim was approved, unless they posed a danger to public health. That way, we avoid scenarios where Americans clog up our refugee system just in order to get some of our free healthcare (thanks Obama?). Moreover, it encourages people to leave the country after their claim had been rejected, instead of allowing them to languish in our already crowded hospitals.
The government argued that for severe issues, emergency rooms would not turn away the refugees, and six provinces had established funding mechanisms to still be able to cover them, in the longstanding tradition of ‘passing the bill along to the provinces’. The intended effects were to deter those planning on abusing the system, thus cutting wait time for those most deserving of joining our country. For example, asylum claims have taken an average of 3.5 months to process since the Conservative overhaul, compared to 22 months under the previous system, an increase in efficiency reminiscent of ‘German engineering’.
Certain words come to mind when thinking of these cuts. Debatable, reasonable, unfair, or fair, but straddling that line of kind-of-okay, or probably-not-okay. Such are not the words used in the popular media. Refugee associations chose “devastating,” and “deliberately subject human beings to physical and emotional suffering as a means of punishing them for seeking refugee protection.”
The government argued that “visitors to Canada do not enjoy access to OHIP. Economic immigrants only get it after three months. We believe pre-hearing and failed claimants do not deserve it either.” The Star lamented that Ottawa left refugee claimants “with basic, essential health care but without supplementals such as vision and dental care,” and Jason Kenney surely shed a single tear.
In her ruling, Justice Anne MacTavish acknowledged that there is no legal “obligation on the Government of Canada to fund health care for those seeking the protection of Canada,” but that “those seeking the protection of Canada” are “under the administrative control of the state,” and that the executive branch of government “intentionally targeted an admittedly vulnerable, poor and disadvantaged group for adverse treatment […] for the express purpose of inflicting predictable and preventable physical and psychological suffering on many of those seeking the protection of Canada.” Thus, the changes were cruel and unusual, because “it cannot be said that [the changes] were necessary to achieve a legitimate aim,” or something.
Justice MacTavish cited “public outrage” as a reason for coming to these conclusions, such as the hyperbolic statements listed above, only proving that if you stomp your feet and make enough noise, you can get whatever you want.