What should refugees expect when they come to Canada? The Federal Government is making it clear, that healthcare isn't one of the things they'll get.
In June 2012 the federal government made cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), refugee health-care funding,
What that did was leave privately-sponsored (refugees who come to Canada sponsored by churches or private citizens) and refugee claimants (people who are already in Canada trying to get refugee status), without access to health care.
Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and Canadian Lawyers for Refugee Care brought the issue to court. Last July, the Federal Court of Canada declared the cuts "cruel and unusual" and Ottawa was ordered to restore the coverage.
"The 2012 modifications to the Interim Federal Health Program potentially jeopardize the health, the safety and indeed the very lives of these innocent and vulnerable children in a manner that shocks the conscience and outrages our standards of decency” the Judge said.
But Ottawa continues the lengthy and expensive battle to appeal the decision. In the meantime a different program called the Temporary IFHP was started, after it was court ordered. Doctors and health care workers say it's "very, very complicated" and "basically covers people just a little bit more".
In Saskatchewan, Pediatrician Mahli Brindamour says it will impact hundreds of people already here, and likely stop hundreds more refugees from receiving sponsorship to come.
"Refugees are people that are in need, need to be welcomed, and need to be treated with dignity," she said.
There are a lot of issues that have arisen. First, there are hundreds of refugees not receiving money for health care, eye care, or dental care. In a lot of cases their costs are being pushed from the feds down to the province and even to cities and local health regions. Another issue is that refugees who are actually applicable for health care are being lumped in with those who aren't, so they aren't getting their coverage either because the system has become so confusing.
"That leaves people not only without health care but also without being able to come to Canada" Brindamour said.
It's not just refugee adults, there has been documentation of pregnant women and children being turned away unless their illness is a threat to public health.
Now Ottawa's reason's for the cuts was largely, they said, to deter unmeritorious claims. There is no evidence to suggest this is an issue.
But there is a migrant crisis in the world. We watch our TV screens and look at photos after hearing of hundreds of people dying on boats trying to escape civil war, war, and famine.
Here in Saskatchewan, we see it as across the world, a travesty for the EU and Southeast Asia to deal with. But it is actually the reality that some of our neighbours, friends, and kids on our block have had to deal with. They have not come to Canada, wringing their hands like Mr.Burns, excited to take advantage of our health care system. They have come to Canada because their homes, belongings, and families have been left in turmoil. Their lives were on the line.
The empathy we feel for cats, the money we are willing to spend bombing Syria ($122 million as of Feb 2015), can't some of that be redirected to people?
I've been to a refugee camp. Some people spend their lives in those camps, some families spend generations. When they come to Canada they should expect a warm welcoming, sympathy, and proper medical treatment especially for pregnant women and children. They shouldn't be longing for the days of Red Cross treatment in a makeshift tent across the world.
Kelly Geraldine Malone is a freelance journalist, podcaster, and radio producer based out of Manitoba, Canada