On February 25th, 2013, CARL launched major litigation to challenge the legality of recent cuts to health care coverage for refugee claimants.
This legal challenge comes in response to the federal government’s issue of an Order in Council in April 2012, to drastically cut benefits to refugee claimants. The changes were made without advance notice and without consultations. It asks the court to declare the health cuts to refugee claimants are both unconstitutional and illegal.
The Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) was introduced in June 1957 to provide temporary health, vision and dental insurance to all refugee claimants and resettled refugees, up until the time they were either accepted as refugees and were eligible for provincial health care, or if not accepted, until they had exhausted their legal options to remain in Canada. Refugee claimants have received some type of interim federal health insurance coverage since 1957. The health coverage was similar to coverage received by Canadians on certain social assistance programs like the Ontario Disability Support Program.
The program remained unchanged from 1957 until April 2012, when the federal government issued an Order in Council to drastically cut benefits to refugee claimants. The changes were made without advance notice and without consultations. The cuts came into effect on June 30, 2012.
The changes to the IFHP are important for several reasons:
The changes introduced five different categories of coverage resulting in confusion for both claimants and health care providers.
The changes will result in a significant downloading of costs onto the provinces and onto individual physicians who provide certain emergency services free of charge.
Cutting preventative and primary health care is poor health policy that threatens public safety and will likely increases costs to taxpayers.
The new IFH rules leave some claimants with no coverage at all, such as those from countries designated “safe” (including urgent care, unless there is a public health or safety concern).
Psychological support services are no longer available; including for survivors of torture, rape, or other violence, except where public safety is an issue.
Unsuccessful claimants only have access to medical care if their conditions is a risk to public health or security; this includes those who cannot be removed due to a government issued moratorium on removal to their country of origin (ex. Afghanistan).
The cuts to health services for refugees – some of whom will have just escaped war, violence, or famine – are unjust and counter to Canada’s long history of compassion and openness.
On February 25, 2013 CARL and Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care (CDRC) filed documents with the Federal Court on behalf of three patients that have been denied critical health care since the IFHP changes in June 2012. The challenge asks the court to declare the health cuts to refugee claimants are both unconstitutional and illegal.
Read below for information on this litigation and relevant media releases.
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