Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Diocese fights for refugee health care
Asks court to overrule Tory cuts
The local diocese of the Anglican Church has gone to Federal Court in a bid to reverse the federal health-care cuts to the refugee program.
In a hearing Wednesday in Federal Court in Winnipeg, the Rupert's Land Diocese made an application for judicial review, effectively asking the court to rule the Harper government cuts are a breach of contract with sponsoring organizations and order the government to keep them in place.
"All we want is a declaration of a breach (of contract)," lawyer David Matas told Federal Court Judge James O'Reilly during a two-hour hearing.
The Harper government announced in April it was trimming the health-care benefits provided to all refugees, eliminating what it considered supplemental benefits such as dental and vision care, prescription drugs, counselling, prosthetics and wheelchairs.
The move was supposed to save the federal government $100 million over five years.
In June, the government quietly amended the changes, restricting the cuts to only refugees sponsored by private, mostly faith-based organizations, but allowing them for government-chosen refugees such as victims of human trafficking, a cause championed by Conservative MP Joy Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul).
Matas, representing the Anglican Church's Rupert's Land Diocese, said the court action seeks to restore the cuts only for those refugees who were brought to Canada under the terms of a January 2012 agreement with the federal government.
Matas said the non-profit, faith-based organizations that sponsor the refugees did so assuming Ottawa would provide the broad coverage of health benefits in its Interim Federal Health program.
He said Ottawa acted arbitrarily, without consultation with the affected sponsors, who now are faced with providing the extra care for the refugees.
The cuts were also discriminatory, he said, adding the benefits remain in place for some refugees but not for those who come to Canada through privately funded organizations.
Federal government lawyer Joel Katz said Ottawa continues to provide basic health care to all refugees, adding it's up to the affected refugees to find the means for the additional benefits if they want or need them.
Katz said the faith-based organizations that sponsor these refugees are under no legal obligation to provide the supplemental health benefits.
He said the federal government has the right to alter existing programs or introduce new programs regardless of whom they might affect. He said new programs could result in a breach of contract, but added that doesn't mean a court can order the changes reversed.
Private organizations entered a contract with the federal government, Katz said, adding they agreed to provide sponsored refugees with food, clothing, transportation and other necessities for up to 12 months. The contract does not stipulate the groups must provide health-care benefits, he said.
Katz said if any of the faith-based sponsor groups believes there has been a breach of contract, they should sue the federal government and prove the damages they have incurred as a result of the breach.
He said Manitoba opted to provide the supplemental benefits Ottawa cut, and the Rupert's Land Diocese and its private partners have suffered no financial hardship.
After the hearing, Matas said although Manitoba and Quebec stepped in when Ottawa withdrew the supplemental benefits, other provinces did not, and the sponsoring groups are incurring unexpected costs to provide the additional benefits.
Matas said if the court rules in the diocese's favour, it would be binding on Ottawa for all groups across the country.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2013 A5
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
(1 of 31 articles for today)3:46 PM
Justice officials are seeking an eight-year prison sentence for a Winnipeg man who used hidden spy cameras to secretly record ...
Photo Store Gallery
- Parole officials impressed with progress made by Winnipeg killer
- Toews' lobbying to be probed
- 8-year sentence sought for Winnipeg man who set up bathroom spy-cams
- MTS inadvertently filters internet customers' traffic
- Teen fighting back against alleged bullying with lawsuit
- RCMP quiet on large police presence at Canadadrugs.com offices
- Wanted: info on trains blocking traffic
- Man sentenced to 16 years for sexually abusing his five children
- Firms shortlisted for $590 million transitway and Pembina underpass project
- Death of Stony inmate investigated
- Significant snowfall likely for southern Manitoba
- Developer giving up on 110-year-old Sargent Avenue building after battle with city
- Boy, 11, injured after falling about 4.5 metres from ski lift at Asessippi
- Man facing impaired driving charge after fatal ATV crash says he had alcohol after the crash
- MTS inadvertently filters internet customers' traffic
- Mom wants ski trips reviewed
- Brothers headed to prison after attacking their mother's dealer
- Semi-trailer falls into Assiniboine River
- Saskatchewan teen killed in crash in Manitoba
- Poor conditions slow drive into Winnipeg; some vehicles off road
- Family shattered by loss of four young sons
- Pilot Mound teen dies after skiing accident
- Two in hospital after car crashes into restaurant
- Forgiving the unthinkable
- Selinger wins on second ballot at NDP leadership convention
- Property tax increase capped, but frontage levies, garbage fees to increase
- Before meeting with mayor, Chipman wants written response
- Judge doesn't buy tale of biker's bounty
- Boy who gave up Jets stick gets surprise gift
- Protected witness wonders if big payday was worth hassle
Ads by Google