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Because of the cuts in previous years, many walk-in clinics, pharmacies and specialists continue to deny services to refugees and refugee claimants based on the false assumption that they are not covered.
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A year ago the first words that came to mind in connection with Canadian refugee policy were restrictions, limitations and exclusion. Today it might instead be generosity, rights and compassion. But it doesn't and absolutely cannot end with 25,000 Syrian refugees arriving by spring and doctors being once again allowed to provide necessary treatment to refugees and refugee claimants. We cannot forget the pressing needs of refugees from other parts of the world. The global refugee population has skyrocketed in recent years, in large part because four million Syrians have fled the country.
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Liberals have promised to bring in 10,000 Syrians by January.
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Some important details are missing.
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While it takes time for a new prime minister to translate campaign rhetoric into effective policies, there are at least five quick-wins that Justin Trudeau can achieve on his very first day in office. All five can be implemented in a few minutes through simple orders-in-council at the cabinet table or by instructing new ministers in their mandate letters. Implementing the full range of changes promised in this last election campaign will take a long time, probably many years. Quick-wins will be important for Trudeau to show Canadians that his Liberal government can bring about the breadth and depth of change for which he was given a majority.
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Lack of healthcare has dire consequences for the well-being of refugees and can also stand in the way of their integration into new environments. For the four-million Syrian refugees living in the neighbouring countries, their access to healthcare has been severely hampered by the funding shortage facing aid agencies.
A year ago we had written to Minister Chris Alexander to apologize for treating a refugee patient. We spoke about how cuts to refugee health care had made seeing a doctor virtually impossible for many new refugees. Were you, Mr. Prime Minister, desperately trying to get the Minister to review the file as well?
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Here in the "Canadian Mosaic," issues of race are largely stricken from the language of the everyday. We prefer not to speak openly about racism, for deconstructing it might chip away at that illusory façade of Canada as a nation of perpetual tolerance and chronic multiculturalism -- a delusion we all hold dear to our glowing hearts. Unfortunately for all those "liberal-minded" Canadians out there who view our country to be so forward thinking and accommodating that racism is a non-issue, institutionalized multiculturalism is not the same thing as social racial equality.
Toronto City Council has decided to do something about this for those without health insurance that live in our city. Council voted in favour of abolishing the three-month waiting period for new immigrants and also rescinding the recent cuts to the refugee health care program. I have never been more proud to call this city my home.
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Today, Jason Kenney and the Conservative government announce a controversial list of countries that will determine who does and does not get access to healthcare in this country. This is what the government has facetiously called "public health and safety coverage" illuminating their limited understanding of the field of public health.
As a family doctor working with refugees and refugee claimants, the potential impacts of this policy are horrifying. We will no doubt see individuals left with no choice but to allow their health to worsen before seeking services. It seems to me that this is a lose-lose situation.
Toronto, is seen as "some kind of paradise" to Roma in Hungary, who face daily persecution. This brought on a nauseating feeling as I thought of the current government's portrayal of Hungary as a "safe country" for the Roma people, who are themselves portrayed as bogus claimants. I thought of the Roma refugee claimants I have seen in my clinic, who are simply trying to find safety for themselves and their families, like anybody would.
Recently, Ottawa introduced Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act, and announced it was going to cut temporary health and mental health care to certain categories of refugees. The result was an outcry of support for people who have left everything they own to flee persecution, rape, torture and violence in their home country. Eliminating important supports and services from refugees is nothing short of inhumane. We're speaking out because the issue speaks to the heart of our purpose. We Care.
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Doctors witness the impact of bad public policy on the health of individual patients and their families. When physicians, health workers and community members take a stand on June 18, we stand in solidarity with those affected and fighting for the right to health for all refugees and refugee claimants. This is about some of the most vulnerable people in our society becoming even more so.
Recently, Jason Kenney has proposed drastic changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) -- the program that has allowed many refugees to receive health care. These changes aim to deny access to essential medicines for all refugees and claimants, deny basic healthcare to those deemed to come from a "safe country," and are a poor policy decision.