Via The Globe and Mail, a little good news: Ottawa’s refugee health-care cuts ‘cruel and unusual,’ court rules. Excerpt and then a comment:
The Conservative government’s latitude to choose its own policies was curtailed yet again on Friday when a judge called health-care cuts for failed refugee claimants a form of “cruel and unusual treatment” and ruled them unconstitutional.
The ruling by Justice Anne Mactavish of the Federal Court in Ottawa was the latest sign that the executive branch of government and the judiciary are in open conflict.
So rare is the use of Section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – “cruel and unusual treatment or punishment” – that neither the government nor the refugees’ representatives were able to identify a single successful claim outside of criminal cases.
“It’s huge – it opens up a whole new claim that we can make when we want to challenge government conduct,” Lorne Waldman, who represented the Canadian Association of Refugee Doctors in the case, said in an interview.
Justice Mactavish said the government’s two-year-old policy of denying health care to certain classes of failed refugee claimants amounted to cruel and unusual treatment because it intentionally targeted vulnerable children and adults.
She said it put at risk “the very lives of these innocent and vulnerable children in a manner that shocks the conscience and outrages our standards of decency.” She gave the government four months to restore the health-care funding.
In widely different areas, the courts have barred the Conservative government from doing what it wished to do – close a Vancouver medical clinic at which drug users inject heroin under a nurse’s supervision; turn the Senate into an elected body without provincial consent; appoint a Federal Court justice to one of three Quebec seats on the Supreme Court; limit prisoners’ right to sue over the conditions of their detention; extend sentences for thousands of prisoners without being explicit about it; and change a parole law retroactively.
In this case, the government argued that it had the right to try to deter bogus claimants from coming to Canada, or overstaying, by denying them medical care, except where they had diseases that could spread to others. It said the cuts would save $80-million over four years, and those denied care could turn to charity, emergency rooms or private insurance.
And of course the Conservative government of Stephen Harper will appeal.
For eight long, sordid years we have lived under these guys. What baffles me is that they grew up in the Canada everyone liked and respected, the Canada of universal health care and peacekeepers that welcomed refugees whether they came from Vietnam or Chile or Uganda.