Standing on Guard for Thee
This Canada Day, as we celebrate our good fortune, we should all take a moment to give thanks to Mohammad Asif. This 35-year old Afghan risked his life by working for our troops in Kandahar for three years. In recognition of his good service, Mohammad and his family were resettled in Canada as government – sponsored refugees last year.
Next week, Mohammad has an important decision to make. He can choose to buy food for his three young children, or he can decide to buy the prescription medicine his wife needs for a serious health condition. He can’t do both anymore because our federal government will no longer cover the cost of refugees’ prescription medications.
Beginning June 29th, reforms to the Interim Federal Health Program will dictate that all refugees lose access to supplemental health care benefits, which include prescription drugs, dentistry, and vision care. Moreover, failed refugee claimants who are waiting to go home (and this can take a while), and refugees who come here from countries the Immigration Minister deems safe, will essentially lose all access to health care, except when their condition poses a risk to public health or safety.
The government is selling the healthcare cuts as a way of bringing fairness to a system they say unreasonably benefits refugees. Immigration Minister Kenney argues that the reforms will save the government twenty million dollars a year and ensure that refugees don’t receive health benefits that are superior to those ordinary Canadians get from governments. But healthcare providers across Canada have been unanimous in their condemnation of these reforms, and say the benefits refugees were receiving are no different to the benefits received by hundreds of thousands of Canadians who are on welfare and other types of government assistance. As one doctor put it, they are simply pitting Canadians who are dissatisfied with their own health coverage against refugees, in an effort to justify their actions.
So who are we as Canadians? We like to think of ourselves as caring, fair, and just giving people a chance. Maybe it would be more accurate to describe us as “what have you done for me lately?” kind of people. This Canadian is grateful to Mohammad Asif, and wishes the Canadian government would express the same respect and gratitude.
Addendum: A bit of good news. The government decided to maintain access to supplemental health care benefits to government-sponsored refugees. So at least Mohammad Asif can breathe a little easier. Now if only the government would extend this goodwill gesture to the rest of refugees in Canada.