Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

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Refugee health cuts struck down by federal court

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Canada took a big step toward health equity for all of residents this month when the Federal Court overturned cuts to refugee health care. The court determined that eliminating health-care services for refugees was “cruel and unusual” treatment in a ruling applauded by nurses.

In June 2012, the federal Conservative government made changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) leaving many refugee claimants without access to care. Since that time, registered nurses and other health-care professionals have opposed the cuts, urging the government to restore lost benefits. In June 2014, nurses across Ontario joined in a National Day of Action to restore refugee heath care, while more than 2,300 people responded to RNAO’s action alerts asking for cuts to be reversed.

The move was presented as a cost-cutting measure, but nurses predicted that, on top of putting the lives of refugees at risk, the cuts would cost Canada more long term as refugees were forced to resort to emergency care. A recent study from Toronto’s Hospital For Sick Children reinforced these concerns.

The Federal Court ruling gives Ottawa four months to revise the IFHP changes, while Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has vowed to appeal the decision.

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