July 4, 2014
Federal Court of Canada Strikes Down Refugee Health-care Cuts
On 4 July 2014, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that the federal government’s amendments to the Interim Federal Health Program, impacting refugee health care, constitute “cruel and unusual treatment”, and struck down the changes as a violation of section 12 and section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The federal government made changes to the Interim Federal Health Care Program for refugees in 2012, leaving most immigrants with only basic and critical health care. Following the changes, refugee claimants from source countries that are deemed as “safe” by the government, as well as failed refugee claimants, are eligible for care only they pose a threat to public health.
These reforms were an attempt to curtail the likelihood of individuals overstaying in Canada for health reasons. However, Justice Mactavish, the presiding judge in this decision, as well as a former chairperson of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, was concerned that the changes could reinforce the unsavoury stereotype that immigrants merely come to Canada to abuse its privileges, not because they whole-heartedly want to.
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, says the government plans to appeal the decision:
“We remain committed to putting the interests of Canadians and genuine refugees first… Failed claimants and those from safe countries like the U.S. or Europe should not be entitled to better health care than Canadians receive. We will vigorously defend the interests of Canadian taxpayers and the integrity of our fair and generous refugee determination system.”
The government has been given four months to change federal cuts to refugee health care from the date of the decision to make changes.
A full text of the decision can be found here