POLITICS

Immigration Minister Pledges To Restore 'Cruel' Refugee Health-Care Cuts

11/08/2015 12:56 EST | Updated 11/09/2015 12:59 EST

Canada's new immigration minister has pledged to restore refugee health care, calling cuts made by the previous Conservative government "cruel and unusual."

John McCallum, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, echoed a Federal Court ruling that cuts to the program were cruel and unusual because they put refugees' health in jeopardy.

The ruling forced the Conservatives to restore some essential health-care benefits.

McCallum told CBC Radio's "The House" that the decision to fully restore the cuts was a "no-brainer."

The former Royal Bank of Canada chief economist also called the cuts "economically stupid, because it probably cost the Canadian taxpayer more."

"They saved a few dollars at the federal level, but people who were desperately sick were going to emergency hospitals," he said.

"So the net cost of the Canadian health-care system probably went up."

Although he hasn't specified a deadline for restoring refugee health care, McCallum told CTV's "Question Period" the matter should be resolved "in a matter of months."

McCallum said right now, the most pressing issue is the Liberal government's goal of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.

He told CBC "all options are on the table," including using air and naval transport, and housing refugees on military bases.

"It certainly remains our objective to get them here by the end of the year," he said.

In the meantime, McCallum told CTV the government's priorities also include speeding up processing times for family reunification.

“We’ve promised to have a new attitude where we welcome newcomers with a smile and not with a scowl," he said.

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