Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace


Posted by strattof on September 6, 2012


A refugee is a person who has left his or her country and cannot return because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group (UN Convention on Refugees).

Canada has a responsibility to welcome refugees who are fleeing persecution or violence, but some recent government decisions have ignored that responsibility:

  • In August of this year, Kimberly Rivera, the first female American War Resister, was ordered to leave Canada for the US, even though she could face harsh penalties for refusing to join the war in Iraq. (CTV News.)
  • In the spring, the government passed Bill C-31, which will allow it to designate certain countries (such as Hungary or Mexico) “safe” countries, from which it will be harder for those fleeing persecution or violence to claim refugee status. (Globe & Mail.)  This, even though the UN identified over 12,800 refugees and asylum seekers originating from Mexico earlier this year, and Amnesty International has documented discrimination, segregation and violence against the minority Roma people, including in Hungary.

The Latest Challenge Cuts to Health Care:

On June 30th, the federal government implemented cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program, a program that provides health care to refugee claimants waiting to qualify for provincial health care benefits.

Among the health care services to be cut for some or all refugees were prenatal care for pregnant women, well child care and access to mental health care.

The government’s planned cuts would have hurt some of the world’s most vulnerable people, people who will have just escaped war, violence or famine. (Source: Canadian Doctors for Refugee Health Care.)

The Public’s Response to Bad Public Policy:

Immediately, medical professionals and ordinary citizens spoke out about the cuts, pointing out that they were bad public policy.  Organizations from the Canadian Medical Association, to the Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions, to the Canadian Psychiatric Association, to the Canadian Paediatric Society called for the cuts to be reversed.

Experts pointed out that vulnerable people would suffer from the cuts, and costs to the health care system could actually increase if people were forced to delay needed tests, treatments, screening programs or counseling appointments until their conditions became more serious.

Across Canada, hundreds of people mailed the government envelopes containing 59 cents—the amount students at the Canadian Mennonite University calculated it would cost each citizen to continue the IFHP’s funding.

The government claims its cuts will save it about $20 million/year.  For comparison’s sake, the government spent $28 million this year alone to celebrate the War of 1812.  What are our policy priorities?  Celebrating war, or helping the victims of war and violence who come to Canada for refuge?


Canadian Doctors for Refugee Health Care believes that:

  • Canada’s approach to medically treating refugees should be guided by fairness and sound public health policy; the federal government’s planned changes meet neither criteria;
  • Cutting preventative and primary health care is poor health policy that threatens public safety and increases costs to taxpayers; and
  • The government’s plans to cut health services to refugees residing in this country – some of whom will have just escaped war, violence or famine – is unjust and counter to Canada’s long history of compassion and openness.


In response to the public outcry at the cuts, the government partially backed down, restoring some funding for some classes of refugees.

Many people, though, will still lack the health care services they need.  Further pressure is needed to help reverse the cuts altogether.

Call or write the Hon. Jason Kenney – Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism – at 613-992-2235 / / Fax – 613-992-1920 to express your opposition to the federal government’s cuts to health care services for refugees.


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