PRESS RELEASE: Conservative Government’s last minute appeal of Federal Court ruling on refugee health cuts prolongs unnecessary suffering

October 1, 2014

TORONTO, ON – October 1, 2014 – At the very last legal minute, the Conservative Government has appealed the Federal Court decision on refugee health care to the Federal Court of Appeal. Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care (CDRC), the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL), and Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY), all parties to the original court action, denounced the government’s decision today as cynical and irresponsible.

"It's another sad day for refugees”, said Dr. Philip Berger, founding member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and Medical Director, Inner City Health Program at St. Michael’s Hospital.  “The Conservative Government is recklessly choosing to let vulnerable people, including pregnant women and ill children, suffer rather than accept the very clear and comprehensive decision of the court".

On July 4, Justice Mactavish of the Federal Court ruled that the federal cabinet’s cuts to refugee health care were “cruel and unusual treatment” and thus a violation of s. 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  The court also ruled that the health cuts were inequitable and discriminatory, and therefore breached the Charter’s s.15 equality guarantee.

“The government is in denial”, added Lorne Waldman, President of CARL and lead counsel on the case. “The factual conclusions of the court were clear: before the cuts, refugees received no more than basic health care; secondly, the cuts applied to all refugees save Government Assisted Refugees, not only fraudulent claims, as the government alleged; finally, the cuts put lives at risk. The government’s bafflegab about cutting health care to keep fraudulent refugees out of Canada, was exactly that – bafflegab. It was a smokescreen for a wrong-headed policy and the Federal Court shot it down.”

This latest government action is particularly curious given a recent Forum opinion poll revealed Canadians are not in favour of providing refugees with less access to health care. 

Mitchell Goldberg, Vice-president of CARL called the government’s decision to appeal shockingly cynical.  “They know the health cuts put lives at risk. Rather than reinstating the refugee health program, they delayed their appeal to the last minute. What part of ‘lives at risk’ do they not understand?”

The government has also asked the Court of Appeal to stay the court order until the appeal is decided which means many more months where refugees continue to be denied health care.  The group plans to vigorously oppose the government’s stay motion, as well as its appeal.  

“The government knows it is wrong on this issue” said Dr. Meb Rashid, founding member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and medical director of the Crossroads Clinic at Women's College Hospital. “More than 20 national health organizations and every provincial health minister representing various political parties have called on the government to reverse their dangerous cuts. What will it take for the Conservative Government to listen?”



For further information contact: 

Lorne Waldman (CARL): 

Mitchell Goldberg (CARL en français): 

Christopher Holcroft (CDRC): 

Emily Chan (JFCY):