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Refugee health care determined by country of origin


2nd national Day of Action of the Doctors for Refugee Care in Vancouver
Refugees now have another thing to worry about, thanks to a new Federal law, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act (Bill C-31). Since the Act came into force, the Interim Federal Health Program has seen its budget cut drastically.
In an eye-opening article, the Health Justice Collective explains how this cut means that "health care services (including hospital services, medical services and medications) [are denied] to a significant number of refugee claimants."
 
The story doesn’t end there. Bill C-31 mandates a two-tier system for refugee health care by giving a federal minister the power to declare certain countries "safe." People from "safe" countries "are no longer entitled to any coverage for medical care, even when urgent or essential, unless suffering from a health problem that could impact 'public health or safety.'"
 
What problems are important enough to be treated? Only when they are pose a threat to the non-refugee Canadian public. The refugees themselves are on their own. The Health Justice Collective explains:
The health impacts are very real and serious. Refugee claimants from DCOs are ONLY eligible for what is referred to as the “public health and safety” coverage, i.e. health coverage only when the health problem is deemed to be a so-called “threat” to public health (i.e., transmissible diseases such as tuberculosis, STIs and HIV) or public safety (i.e., someone harboring homicidal thought … but not suicidal thought!). Imposing a definition that removes migrants from the so-called “public” demonstrates the racism entrenched within the immigration system, whereby a flawed distinction is made between citizens and refugees. With these cuts, refugee claimants in general and refugees from DCOs in particular are viewed as threats and carriers of disease.
The law is receiving opposition from a number of organizations, including Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care (CDRC) and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL). These two groups, along with two individuals, are now asking that the Federal Court of Canada "declare that the cuts to refugee health care are unconstitutional and illegal." Their legal challenge is now being brought to federal court.
 
Check out the Ottawa Media Coop to find out more about the Health Justice Collective and the struggle for health care for all.
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