NEWS

Can't address government's temporary fix on refugee health care: Federal Court

02/05/2015 06:26 EST | Updated 04/07/2015 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - The Federal Court judge who declared the government's approach to refugee health care unconstitutional has ruled she can't do anything about the new measures the Conservatives have put in place.

Federal Court Justice Anne Mactavish says while there could be charter issues with the government's new temporary policy, it's beyond her jurisdiction to deal with them.

She says that's because of the finality of the ruling she issued in July declaring that the interim federal health care program violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Lawyers for the refugee claimants had asked the judge to provide clearer directions than she did in her original decision last summer, when she ordered the government to put a new health care program in place.

That new system, they argued, was still a violation of the charter rights of refugee claimants because it did not provide broad coverage to all eligible refugees.

Government lawyers countered by saying the decision didn't extend the right to coverage, but merely declared the old program unconstitutional.

The changes made in 2012 to the health program drastically reduced the amount of health care the government would fund for those awaiting a decision on their refugee claim, in some cases removing coverage entirely unless public health was at risk.

Mactavish declared that put people's lives at risk and ordered it changed.

The new program expanded coverage, notably to pregnant women and children, but it is still not as broad in scope as it was prior to the 2012 changes.

"While there may be a question as to whether this new policy is charter-compliant, that question should be decided in the context of a new application for judicial review, on the basis of a proper evidentiary record," Mactavish wrote in her decision Thursday.

Mactavish's original decision is still being appealed by the federal government and no court date has been set.

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