POLITICS

Liberals call on Conservatives to reverse cuts to refugee health care

07/31/2012 11:53 EDT | Updated 09/30/2012 05:12 EDT
OTTAWA - The federal Liberals are calling on the Conservative government to reverse cuts to refugee health care.

The party's citizenship and immigration critic, Kevin Lamoureux, said Tuesday he'll put forward a motion this fall to study the cuts at a parliamentary committee.

Lamoureux also called on Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to make public all studies done by his department about the cuts.

"There's a great deal of suspicion that this was a decision that was made on a whim, that there was no real consultation, that there was no real studies," he said.

"We haven't seen it, and we would like to see the evidence."

The Tories have cut benefits under the interim federal health program, which provides extended health-care benefits to refugees.

Refugee claimants from countries deemed "safe" by the government will receive health care coverage only for emergency services or if care is required to prevent or treat diseases that could harm the public.

Refugees and refugee claimants from countries that are not on the safe list receive health care coverage similar to what is provided through provincial health care.

The government argues that refugee claimants shouldn't receive benefits that aren't received by Canadian taxpayers, saying the changes were designed to discourage bogus refugee claims.

Lamoureux rejected that argument.

"The minister of immigration takes something and he attempts to try to make the refugee look like they're exploiting the system," he said.

"What's really happening is the minister is exploiting the refugee, and is in fact making a victim of the refugee."

Kenney's office shot back, saying Canada welcomes more resettled refugees per capita than any other country in the world, and that the federal government "strongly disagrees" with the "irresponsible" Liberal and NDP approach.

Kenney spokeswoman Ana Curic said the Liberals believe "illegal immigrants and bogus asylum seekers" ought to be free to abuse the system and collect health care benefits "that are more generous than Canadian taxpayers, including seniors and Kevin Lamoureux’s constituents, receive."