Pitting citizens against refugees: Canadians know better

31 Oct 2012

Canadians are proud of their healthcare system, and the way in which it endeavours to treat everyone equally and fairly. Refugee healthcare has long been an important part of this healthcare system, reaching out to provide basic, urgent medical coverage to a vulnerable group.

Which is why, on October 20, hundreds of concerned citizens gathered in front of an office in Saskatoon to express their support for refugee healthcare, and their frustration with changes being made to it.

The group had gathered outside the office of MP Kelly Block to respond to a flyer sent out celebrating cuts to refugee healthcare and inviting her constituents to applaud these detrimental changes. The flyer, designed to pit average Canadians against vulnerable groups, is having the opposite effect.

The flyer reiterates arguments often used to justify the cuts, by suggesting that it is “unfair” for refugees and refugee claimants to receive medical services. But the flyer—as with many of these arguments—fails to mention some of the most startling cuts, including those to chemotherapy, prenatal care, and medication to treat heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and epilepsy. Is it fair to deny such essential services as these?

Changes to refugee healthcare have also created complex (and confusing) categories of refugees, some of whom are entitled to basic services, and others who are not. Are these inequalities fair?

Many of these refugees are on their way to becoming Canadian citizens. How do we want to treat them now, in the first stages of this process? Surely it is more constructive to assist their integration into Canadian society, and help them become the fully contributing members of society that they want to be.

Misleading information, oversimplistic arguments and inflammatory language create stereotypes and negative impressions of a vulnerable group. But Canadians know better, and are fighting back to restore a government program that was fair, generous, and economically viable.