Canada court strikes down limits on refugee claimant health care

Fri Jul 4, 2014 12:53pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A top Canadian court on Friday invalidated the Conservative government's decision to limit health coverage for many people in the country making refugee claims, declaring the federal action to have been shocking and outrageous.

The policy change in 2012 amounted to "cruel and unusual" punishment, particularly as it affected children brought in to Canada by their parents, and therefore were unconstitutional, Federal Court Justice Anne Mactavish ruled.

"The cuts to health insurance coverage effected through the 2012 modifications ... potentially jeopardize the health, and indeed the very lives, of these innocent and vulnerable children in a manner that shocks the conscience and outrages our standards of decency," she decided.

It was the latest major court ruling against Conservative government policies.

Canada's Supreme Court last year struck down most restrictions on prostitution, forcing Ottawa to introduce a new law. This year it killed off Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Senate reform plan and rejected his pick to replace a vacancy on the court.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander quickly announced an appeal.

Canadian citizens do not have to pay for basic health coverage, with doctors billing the government.

When it changed the policy for refugee claimants in 2012, the government cited a need to cap burgeoning healthcare costs, deter unfounded refugee claims and discourage failed refugee claimants from remaining in Canada.   Continued...