Protests in 19 Canadian cities Monday urged the Canadian government to reverse cutbacks to refugee health care.
The Star | NICHOLAS KEUNG Immigration reporter
On the one-year anniversary of Ottawa’s refugee health cuts, protesters urged Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to stop his “bogus propaganda” against asylum seekers.
“Mr. Kenney, come clean with the Canadian people. This policy is flawed. It’s mean-spirited. It’s cruel and you know it. Stop your attempt to score political points on the backs of some of the most vulnerable amongst us. Stop your bogus propaganda,” Dr. Meb Rashid of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care told 350 protesters at a Toronto rally Monday.
“We were here one year ago to tell this government these cuts were cruel and dangerous. We are now seeing the consequences. We will continue to fight against these policies. We will be persistent and relentless until the government comes clean and these cuts are rescinded.”
The protest in front of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada building on St. Clair Ave. E. was one of 19 organized by health-care workers across Canada, including one in Hamilton, where medical students and residents at McMaster University were advised not to wear their lab coats at the protest.
“The University wishes to avoid confusion about the symbolism of their logos being used during an event that is likely to receive media attention,” wrote Rob Whyte, assistant dean of education services, said in an email last week.
“The MD Program does support student participation in the National Day of Action . . . the University has not sanctioned the use of its logo for the purpose of this event which includes the white coats.”
Kenney’s office defended the cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) and denounced the health professionals’ action.
“These protesters and the Opposition are misleading Canadians in an irresponsible and shameful attempt to further their unreasonable demands that Canadian taxpayers foot the bill for gold-plated health care coverage for illegal immigrants and bogus asylum claimants,” said Kenney spokesperson Alexis Pavlich.
“Our Conservative government will continue to stand up for hard-working, Canadian taxpayers by ensuring that our already strained health care system is no longer abused by illegal immigrants and bogus asylum claimants.”
Prominent Canadians such as authors Margaret Atwood, Yann Martel and Rohinton Mistry, actors Shirley Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland, and former Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson and her husband, writer John Ralston Saul, have endorsed the campaign to reverse the cuts.
“We’re here in Canada, proud of this country known for its tolerance and its diversity. Yet sadly, we are dismayed, ashamed and angry at the cuts to health care to refugees,” said award-winning author and emergency physician Vincent Lam, one of the signatories at the Toronto rally.
“We upheld a proud tradition of humanitarian values of offering refuge and of caring for the sick in the most vulnerable time of need. And that, I’m afraid, is no longer the case.”