Saskatchewan premier says impact of federal refugee health cut 'unbelievable'
Premier Brad Wall addresses the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce and unveils the Saskatchewan Plan for Growth at Teachers Credit Union Center in Saskatoon, Sask., Tuesday, October 16, 2012. (Liam Richards / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Thursday, November 22, 2012 4:05PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 22, 2012 10:14PM EST
REGINA -- Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is criticizing a federal decision to deny chemotherapy to a refugee as "unbelievable" and un-Canadian.
Wall says he doesn't understand the rationale behind the move.
"It's unbelievable that some of the decisions that have been taken federally are having this impact on people who are clearly the most vulnerable, refugees who are obviously fleeing something quite terrible -- that's why they're refugees," Wall said Thursday.
"On the face of it, you just consider the case of this particular gentleman or others who, for example, as it was pointed out ... might need prenatal care, this is just common sense. You just do this.
"This is the kind of country we are. You cover it."
The man arrived in Saskatoon several months ago after fleeing a Middle Eastern country where he was persecuted for being Christian. Soon after arriving, he started having abdominal pain and was diagnosed with cancer.
The federal government said it would not pay for chemotherapy, Saskatchewan Health Minister Dustin Duncan revealed Wednesday.
Ottawa announced changes in the spring to the Interim Federal Health Program, which provides temporary health coverage for protected persons, refugee claimants and other groups not eligible for provincial health insurance.
Under those changes, some refugee claimants saw cuts to their drug, dental and vision coverage. Additionally, those whose refugee claims are rejected and those from a yet-to-be defined list of "safe" countries will only receive medical care if their condition is deemed a risk to public health or safety.
The federal government said it hopes the changes will deter bogus refugee claims and ensure failed asylum seekers don't take advantage of Canada's free health care.
Duncan said Wednesday that confusion abounds. He said provinces are frustrated because there is a lack of clarity in terms of what Ottawa will continue to cover.
Saskatchewan has picked up the tab for the man's chemotherapy.
"This country is rich. We are rich beyond measure compared to the countries where these folks are fleeing from and so it's our view that we should just be there to help.
"That's kind of a basic Canadian value, I think," said Wall.