Immigration Minister Jason Kenney fired back at the government of Saskatchewan on Wednesday after it suggested the federal government is downloading refugee health-care costs on to the provinces.
“If the government of Saskatchewan thinks that illegal immigrants or asylum claimants or other foreign nationals deserve a higher level of care than … some Canadians through some provincial plans, they have the prerogative to provide such services,” Kenney said during a Wednesday appearance at a Commons immigration committee.
The issue of refugee health-care access made headlines last week when Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall criticized the federal government for recent changes made to the Interim Federal Health Program. The program provides temporary coverage for refugee claimants and other groups that don’t qualify for provincial health insurance.
“It’s unbelievable that some of the decisions that have been taken federally are having this impact on people who are clearly the most vulnerable, refugees who are obviously fleeing something quite terrible — that’s why they’re refugees,” Wall said last Thursday.
Wall made the comments after a Saskatoon refugee was reportedly unable to access appropriate cancer services.
Saskatchewan’s health ministry has called for the feds to revisit the federal changes, but Kenney says the government has “already reviewed the program” and he claims it “finds the right balance.”
“We do fund chemotherapy treatments for asylum claimants,” Kenney said. “Some provinces, however, do not provide the out of hospital pharmaceuticals.”