NEWS

Refugee health-care advocates criticize government lack of action

01/21/2015 02:05 EST | Updated 03/23/2015 05:59 EDT
The federal government hasn't complied with a court ruling that reinstated health care for refugees, advocates are set to argue in court next week, returning to a fight they thought they'd won last July.

Lorne Waldman, a lawyer for Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, will be back in Federal Court on Tuesday to try to force the government to comply with a July 2014 decision that reversed changes to refugee health care introduced two years earlier.

In 2012, the federal government decreased the level of health care to which refugees were entitled, something the Federal Court found was "cruel and unusual" because it jeopardizes refugees' health and shocks the conscience of Canadians.

Judge Anne Mactavish ruled the federal cabinet has the power to make such changes and that the procedure was fair, but that the 2012 modifications put lives at risk, including the lives of children.

Mactavish gave the government until Nov. 4 to reinstate the health care. The government waited until the last possible day to return some health care to refugees pending its appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal.

Mactavish's ruling also rolled back a change the Conservatives made to a 1957 Cabinet order that provided for refugee health care. The government had repealed that measure when it made the changes in 2012.

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and the Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, however, say the government re-repealed that measure on Nov. 6, 2014, only two days after it was supposed to restore the health coverage.

The advocates first pointed out the return to the repealed measure in December, but the Canadian Medical Association Journal drew attention to it in an article published Wednesday.

Waldman said the Federal Court was clear the government was supposed to restore the pre-2012 coverage. He's filed a motion to the court asking for a finding that the government has breached the court order.

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