By Malin Jordan
Bravo, Jason Kenney. The Minister for Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism announced reforms to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) April 25, and they were long-needed.
Created as an interim solution to health-care access for refugee claimants, the program has ballooned into a $100-million-a-year cost. Kenney's reform is logical and necessary. And he tackled a problem many before him have greatly feared.
There wasn't much noise about it in B.C. until last week, when Kenney was in Vancouver and Surrey to give a couple of low-key talks.
At one event, protesters attempted to block him from entering the Eaglequest Golf Course to speak to members of the Surrey Board of Trade.
Tracey Jastinder-Mann, a member of the group No One Is Illegal (NOII), led the heckling from inside, while a small number of protesters attempted to block the entrance, distributed pamphlets, and held signs, one of which read: "Tories are still racist."
When Kenney took the podium at Eaglequest, Jastinder-Mann allegedly began screaming, "Shame! Shame!" and yelled the IFHP was killing refugees.
But none of it is true, and the arguments for reform were many:
-- Under the old system, refugees were granted dental care, vision care, and better prescription drug coverage than many Canadians
-- Refugee claimants also had a hard time getting basic medical procedures. In fact most procedures were extremely difficult to obtain (although they could easily obtain abortion services.)
-- Also, rejected claimants, launching appeal after appeal, were still entitled to the diamond-studded coverage.
Now, under the reform, wider-ranging health care will be easier to obtain, though not the premium variety that Canadians have to pay extra for.
Will they be denied care? No, although some types of care, not basic care, won't be billable by doctors.
Some doctors are outraged about the IFHP reform. Toronto Dr. Phillip Berger led a group of 90 self-righteous doctors protesting the government's reform last month at Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver's Toronto-area riding office.
Surprisingly, they complained that the reform didn't protect "the most vulnerable," but not one doctor mentioned protecting vulnerable babies from abortion.
The doctors' rage and vitriol (along with that of NOII) for their elitist cause celebre is laughable. Canada is a very generous country, and we do indeed want to help people as best we can. But offering refugee claimants, along with rejected claimants, better health care coverage than average citizens is misguided. It's unfortunate and unhelpful for doctors and special-interest groups to rage against logical, necessary reforms.
It's important for Canadians to understand that providing better access to health care for refugee claimants is more important than continuing to throw money into a hole that doesn't do much to help refugees in the first place (except, maybe, to help them get abortions.)
Kenney's reforms are logical and help genuine refugees. (And Kenney is also working hard to fast-track applications so refuges can enter mainstream society quickly.)
The reforms don't help bogus refugee claimants. Kenney's reforms help the most vulnerable and needy refugees.