Documents reveal Canadian government examined limiting refugees with health problems

Published: September 3, 2013
Refugee Canada program

Jason Kenney during a news conference in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

BENJAMIN SHINGLER
THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL — The federal government has examined setting limits on the number of refugees that Canada takes in with health problems, such as trauma from torture.

Staff at Citizenship and Immigration Canada were asked last year to suggest ways to cut down on the number of “high needs” refugees in order to reduce strain on the health-care system, according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press.

That request came from former immigration minister Jason Kenney, who is still the Conservatives’ minister responsible for multiculturalism.

He was eventually given a series of options including a cap on refugees with health problems — such as “developmental delay, blindness, victims of trauma and torture” — allowed from within a specific population group, according to one memo.

There were concerns such a change might create a public-relations problem.

Canadians might consider it an abdication of the country’s efforts to help the world’s most vulnerable, according to the 2012 memo.

“Implementing quotas for refugees with these needs could be perceived as a reversal of Canada’s humanitarian tradition,” says the memo, signed last Dec. 11 by a top official in the immigration department, Neil Yeates.

“Vulnerable refugees would be disproportionately affected, as vulnerability within refugee populations is often tied to health and mobility issues.”

Another option suggested was to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to change the definition of a “medical case referral,” in order to curb the number of refugee arrivals with “serious medical needs.”

Those proposals are now coming to light amid a major overhaul to Canada’s refugee policies, affecting everything from which refugees the country accepts to how claims are processed.

Starting in 2013-14, Ottawa will shift away from a global resettlement program to focus on between three and five specific refugee populations.

The Conservatives have, meanwhile, faced criticism for last year’s cuts to health services provided to refugees and refugee claimants. Doctors and refugee advocates argue that the move is short-sighted and puts the most vulnerable at risk.

The cost of the refugee health-care program had climbed to $82.9 million in 2011-12, from $48.3 million in 2006-07, Citizenship and Immigration statistics show.

It’s unclear whether the idea of health quotas remains under consideration.

Kenney was advised to give a response by Jan. 2, 2013, to the memo, which is heavily redacted. Chris Alexander took over Kenney’s ministerial post in the July cabinet shuffle.

A spokeswoman at Citizenship and Immigration, Andrea Khanjin, would neither confirm nor deny whether the federal government had chosen to pursue one of the options laid out in the memo.

“I can tell you that our Conservative government will continue to give refuge to the most vulnerable populations,” Khanjin said in an email.

“Canada welcomes one out of every 10 refugees resettled around the world, more than almost any other country in the world.”

The memo says Canada accepts 10 per cent of all medical cases referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — more than any country except the United States.

That memo is one in a series prepared for Kenney that propose changes to ensure refugees selected to live in Canada are healthier, more easily integrated, and allow for efficient processing.

The new approach marks a drastic shift — away from responding to the needs of refugees toward more self-serving aims, says one refugee advocacy group.

Economic benefits and cost-cutting are being prioritized over the humanitarian concerns of the world’s most vulnerable, said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

“What we seem to be seeing is that everything is being subsumed under the overall objective of serving Canada’s economic needs,” she said in an interview.

“They’re evaluating refugees on the basis of which ones are going to be best for Canada’s economy.”

According to the memo, Kenney had asked the department to come up with a way to manage the number of refugees arriving with health problems as part of a “larger strategy to improve refugee outcomes.”

There’s apparently another factor influencing Canada’s refugee efforts: federal foreign-policy goals.

A proposal to resettle 5,000 refugees out of Ankara would complement “Canada’s efforts to build a bilateral relationship with Turkey,” said a memo dated Oct. 30, 2012.

The same memo shows that Ottawa’s move to narrow its focus to three to five populations went against the wishes of the UNHCR, which manages refugees internationally.

“UNHCR would prefer Canada not move away from its global approach,” the document said.

Related Stories:


Tags: , , , , , ,





Featured

homeless-poverty

Surrey’s homeless struggle with winter shelter options

AMY REID SURREY NOW SURREY — The time is 6:30 p.m. The sun has set and the temperature hovers around freezing point in Whalley. Driving…
Continue Reading »

Abbotsford-desi-medicine-crime-HIV-AIDS

Abbotsford acupuncturist’s clients urged to get tested for HIV, hepatitis

NICK EAGLAND VANCOUVER DESI Health authorities are urging clients of an Abbotsford acupuncturist to get tested for HIV and hepatitis after determining she failed to…
Continue Reading »

desi bride loaded in gold

Indian bride draws flak for wearing $700,000 jewellery at her wedding

CEN AGENCY An Indian sweet maker made sure his daughter was the golden girl at her upcoming wedding by covering her in gold jewellery worth…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Kesler

Spice Sports: Ryan Kesler returns, Lions fire head coach

GOPI AND THE GORA FOR VANCOUVER DESI The return of beast mode descends upon us once again. Former Canuck Ryan Kesler makes his much anticipated return…
Continue Reading »

homeless-poverty

Surrey’s homeless struggle with winter shelter options

AMY REID SURREY NOW SURREY — The time is 6:30 p.m. The sun has set and the temperature hovers around freezing point in Whalley. Driving…
Continue Reading »

Abbotsford-desi-medicine-crime-HIV-AIDS

Abbotsford acupuncturist’s clients urged to get tested for HIV, hepatitis

NICK EAGLAND VANCOUVER DESI Health authorities are urging clients of an Abbotsford acupuncturist to get tested for HIV and hepatitis after determining she failed to…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

op-ed

Aziza Sindhu: How do you grieve for a tyrant father?

AZIZA SINDHU CALGARY HERALD My father, Salim M. Sindhu, passed away on Nov. 10. As a child, I wished he smiled at me, as a…
Continue Reading »

India

Honour Killing: Delhi girl killed by parents for marrying her boyfriend

HINDUSTAN TIMES Three days after marrying her boyfriend in a temple, a 21-year-old Delhi University student was murdered and secretly cremated by her parents for…
Continue Reading »

violence against women

SFU grad bringing local attention to issue of violence against women in India (w/ gallery)

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI After spending more than a year researching violence against women in India as part of her U.K. Master’s degree program, Surrey’s…
Continue Reading »

Punjabi Chura

Punjab Chura: Not just pretty bangles

KIM TREHAN VANCOUVER DESI Here comes the bride… all dressed in …red.  From head to toe adorned in red is your traditional Punjabi bride. But…
Continue Reading »

india

Man isolated at New Delhi airport after traces of Ebola virus found in his semen

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NEW DELHI — A 26-year-old Indian man who recovered from Ebola in Liberia has been placed in isolation at the New Delhi…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 1.03.20 PMdesi

Bollywood actor Salman Khan shares sister Arpita’s wedding photos on Instagram

VANCOUVER DESI Bollywood actor Salman Khan shared photos of his sister Arpita Khan’s grand wedding with businessman Aayush Sharma on Instagram. “Hav put up sm…
Continue Reading »

Ileana D'Cruz

Happy Ending: Flawed but feisty and relevant (w/trailer)

SUBHASH K. JHA IANS  Film: “Happy Ending”; Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Ileana D’Cruz, Govinda, Kalki Koechlin, Ranveer Shorey; Director: Raj Nidimoru/Krishna D.K.; Rating: **** Okay,…
Continue Reading »

desi sex-nude photos

Kim Kardashian’s trip to India and appearance on Bigg Boss cancelled

HINDUSTAN TIMES And IANS American reality TV star Kim Kardashian’s much-hyped maiden trip to India has been nipped in the bud, owing to visa issues….
Continue Reading »