Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 25, 2013. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)
OTTAWA - Immigration lawyers have asked the Federal Court to declare "mean and callous" cuts to health coverage for refugee claimants in Canada unconstitutional, but the immigration minister says their case has no merit.
"It's just part of an ongoing ideological campaign," Jason Kenney said Monday.
Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) are angry the feds cut off taxpayer coverage of prescription drugs, glasses and dentist visits for most refugee claimants last July, leaving them only with the kind of coverage provincial health plans provide while their cases are processed.
They're also upset that rejected refugee claimants and those from designated safe countries, like Hungary or Japan, only get bare-bones coverage to prevent public health risks.
"People with severe medical conditions are being put at risk; they are suffering unnecessarily for the saving of a pittance," CARL's Lorne Waldman said in a statement.
Waldman points to the case of rejected refugee claimant Hanif Ayubi, who has lost taxpayer coverage of his diabetes medication, but has been in Canada since 2001 because of a moratorium on deportations to his native Afghanistan.
Kenney said taxpayers don't owe anything to "bogus asylum claimants who have been rejected by our fair and generous legal system."
He said the changes have resulted in a massive drop in false refugee claims.
"In fact, when the changes came into effect on July the 1st we saw from precisely that date a 90% reduction in the number of asylum claims being filed by citizens of the European Union," Kenney said.