Wednesday, July 04, 2012

That curious backtrack on refugee health cuts

Jason Kenney offered up some tremendous spin on his controversial refugee health care cuts that came into force on Saturday yet were the subject of a last minute government change at the end of last week: "Refugee health cuts 'clarified,' not reversed, Kenney says." Read the report for his version of how the government intended, all along, to keep health benefit access for some refugees despite the fact that the government communications on the new policy did not in any way manifest that intention.

Canadian Press, however, has tracked the last minute cabinet amendment the government made at the end of last week, just two days before the global cuts to refugee health care were to come into force:"Conservatives forced to quickly amend refugee health cuts."
The Conservatives were forced to amend their policy on cutting off benefits for refugee claimants just forty-eight hours before it came into effect.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Tuesday the end of extended health benefits for refugee claimants was never meant to apply to government-assisted refugees.

But with a June 30 deadline looming on the proposed changes, the department realized that’s exactly how the new rules would apply — and officials were forced to get cabinet approval for an amendment.

The approval came through only at the last minute: the order-in-council making the change was signed on June 28 and published Tuesday.
Kenney says tomahto, reporting says tomayto. Take your pick.

At the end of the day, despite the change that the Harper cabinet scrambled to make, to allow health benefits for government-assisted refugees, there remain many who will still not be eligible for health care: "Despite this reversal, many other refugees will still be denied access to basic health services," a press release issued Tuesday said. "The government's concession for government-assisted refugees is too little and too late. Many other refugees will suffer because of the cuts that are still in place."

The climb down or "clarification" by the government, whatever it was, and I'd bet on the former, is a good sign that they are succumbing to pressure. This remains an issue to watch.