Dr. Dawg

This isn't who we are

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It was an appalling, gut-churning performance. Chris Alexander, the new Minister of Immigration, took it upon himself last week to scold the Ontario government for providing necessary basic health care to refugees.

“Simply arriving on our shores and claiming hardships isn’t good enough. This isn’t a self-selection bonanza, or a social program buffet,” he said.

Ontario joins five other provinces—Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and Nova Scotia—who are refusing to abandon people in dire need on the federal government’s say-so. The story began in mid-2012, when then-Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenney, announced that a federal program to provide basic medicare to refugee claimants was to be slashed. No more “gold-plated benefits” would be doled out to “bogus” refugee claimants, he said, from “safe” countries, called “Designated Countries of Origin.”

Hungary is one of those allegedly safe countries. Not so safe, though, if you’re Roma (“Gypsy”) or Jewish. Hungary’s third-largest political party is a neo-Nazi one. Frequent violence against terrified Roma is well-documented.

People fleeing such persecution have never received “gold-plated benefits” on arrival here: until December 2012, they got what Canadians on social assistance already get from the provinces and territories—as the government’s own website confirms.

Kenney had his facts wrong, but that’s never stopped this government before. Remember Minister Rob Nicholson, trying to explain why his government wanted tougher anti-crime measures, when statistics show that crime rates are dropping? “We’re not governing on the basis of the latest statistics,” Nicholson said. “We’re governing on the basis of what’s right.” Now here’s Alexander: “We won’t have our policy made by doctors.” Ideology trumps facts, common humanity, and even economics.

But this is all abstract. Canadians need to see the effects of this vile Harper government policy on real people. Here, then, are some of the victims of this political blindness:

A 7-year-old epileptic boy in Hamilton was hospitalized for a severe seizure because he could not get medicine; a woman who had endured multiple rapes after she was sold into the sex trade couldn’t get an ultrasound for the fetus she was carrying; a Colombian man is desperately fundraising to pay Toronto General Hospital for life-saving abdominal surgery; two refugee claimants in Ottawa — one Peruvian, the other El Salvadoran — have stopped taking their post-traumatic stress medications.


Since June 30, 2012 CDRC [Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care] has independently verified over 50 cases of claimants being denied services including for example an epidural for a woman in labour, an ultrasound for a woman with fibroids and heavy vaginal bleeding and chemotherapy for cancer patients. Denial of services will cost more by allowing treatable conditions to progress, leads to more and preventable emergency department visits and places doctors in the position of having to treat patients on the basis of their legal status and country of birth, rather than medical need.

It’s no surprise that doctors and nurses have been in the forefront of national protests against the government’s position. These are workers on the front line, who can see for themselves the harm that this destructive policy is causing. The Canadian Medical Association recently published a searing editorial calling for the government to “own up to the consequences of the cuts and take steps to reverse them. This would be the sensible approach medically and economically. And it is the decent thing to do.”

But medical workers are not alone. Religious groups, and even Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, have weighed in as well. And the Canadian Health Coalition has denounced the cuts in no uncertain terms as a “violation of medical ethics and a disgrace to Canada.”

I couldn’t put it better myself.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on January 29, 2014 10:07 AM.

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