On Friday, doctors in several cities across Canada protested the changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) announced by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenny. The changes come as part of new tougher reforms to refugee legislation. The IFHP gives health-care coverage to refugee claimants and protected persons who do not qualify for provincial or territorial coverage. Most of these people are fleeing war, torture or rape and as such, these cuts will leave the most vulnerable people in our society more disenfranchised.
The changes will go into effect on June 30 2012, after which claimants will be denied access to a range of hospital services, medications and vaccines unless their situation is deemed urgent as defined by the new policy. In scenarios given by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, individuals will only be treated if their condition poses a risk to public health or safety. Individuals with chronic diseases such as lung disease, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease will not be covered since they do not pose a public health or safety risk. The Conservatives have justified the cuts with claims that it saves money, promotes fairness, and protects public health.
Canada has always been known as a global leader of humanitarian concerns. It seems that the changes made by the Government are inconsistent with Canadian values. Do we want to be a society that will not take care of the most vulnerable among us? As Ghandi once said: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members”. Perhaps this is a step in the wrong direction, what do you think?