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Weeping, Rejoicing, and Praying for Refugee Healthcare

"A country is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable." Although the source of this oft-mentioned quote is up for debate, it is undoubtedly a powerful statement that stands in judgment of our nation.

In the past couple of weeks, Canadians have been reminded of this judgment. For two years now, victims of persecution, trauma, and war have been denied medical care in Canadian hospitals and medical clinics because it has been legislated that Canadian tax payers shouldn’t be paying for refugee health care. Jesus must be weeping as are countless doctors, lawyers, church groups, refugee advocates, and Canadians in response to the massive cuts to refugee health care. Our weeping has been heard by the Federal Court, who on July 4, 2014 ruled that the cuts to refugee health care inflicted “cruel and unusual treatment” on refugees and are contrary to the Canadian constitution.   

If you are wondering why the cuts were ruled to be cruel and unusual treatment, try to imagine the reality of a refugee claimant arriving in Canada.

Think of a pregnant woman who has fled a situation of domestic abuse in her country of origin, which is designated as “safe” in Canadian immigration policy. She has no access to prenatal care to monitor if she and her baby are healthy.

Now think of a human rights activist with type I diabetes who is fleeing a paramilitary group for speaking out against state persecution. His sugar levels are dangerously high and he is not able to pay for insulin as he used all of his savings to bring his family to Canada.

And finally, think of the children of both of these people, who not only have been traumatized by displacement, but who are normal kids that get bumps and scrapes from playing in the park and come down with strep throat in the winter. They too have been victims of these cuts.

We give thanks that a number of provinces have stepped in over the past two years to fill in the gaps in refugee health care. However, in practice, both refugees and health care service providers have found it difficult and confusing to access provincial coverage. A number of people have ended up paying out of their own pockets, which are not likely overflowing with money.

Thus we rejoice at the news of the federal court decision and we pray that the order to reinstate refugee health coverage is upheld, even in the wake of an appeal by the federal government. We pray in gratitude for our refugee brothers and sisters, who are precious in their sight of their Creator. And we pray for our own ability as a nation to be welcoming and hospitable to refugees and for our urge to weep together when we fail. 

For more information on the federal court decision, please visit:



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