10/22/2012 06:59 EDT | Updated 12/22/2012 05:12 EST

Protest To Be Held Against Refugee Health Care Cuts

A political flyer sent out by a Saskatchewan member of Parliament has outraged some medical students and doctors in Ottawa.

Earlier this month, Conservative MP Kelly Block sent out a letter to constituents praising recent cuts to refugee health benefits.

"New arrivals to Canada have received dental and vision care paid by your tax dollars — not anymore," the letter read in part.

On Sunday, about 300 people gathered outside Block's constituency office in Saskatoon to protest the letter. Block has said a draft copy of the letter was sent out in error, but she defended the government's policy.

A protest against the cuts is being held on Parliament Hill Monday.

Sister Julie Daigle works at an Ottawa shelter with men, women and children who've sought refuge in Canada from countries in Africa and the Middle East.

In July, rules changed for some refugee claimants. Many lost coverage for drugs, dental and eye care.

As a nurse, Daigle said she understands the impact.

"A lady was having excruciating pain," Daigle said. "Her whole cheek was swollen. She had infection. She had to actually wait over four days before she could actually be seen. She could have died from infection, becoming worse and worse.

"We've been seeing delays in care that can compromise their health."

Daigle said some Ottawa doctors are refusing to see refugees because the system has become more complicated.

Manisha Hladio, a medical student at the University of Ottawa who works with refugees, said she believes the Conservative message is misleading.

"In addition to disagreeing with the cuts and the fact we believe it's bad policy, the protest is kind of directed at the conservative campaign to basically educate the constituents about some of these issues," Hladio said.

Shortly after the cuts were announced, Immigration minister Jason Kenney told CBC most of the cost savings would come from eliminating supplementary benefits for failed refugee claimants who are found ineligible to remain in Canada. He added that his office has received strong support for the changes.

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