Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Kenney gets best wishes for refugees

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OTTAWA -- Immigration Minister Jason Kenney may find himself on a few more Christmas-card lists this year, but some will have frosty wishes.

The Winnipeg creators of the 59-cents letter-writing campaign are asking people who object to cuts in refugee health care to send Kenney a holiday card wishing him the best of the season and wishing he will change his decision to cut the program.

"We generally wish for people to have a nice, relaxing time (during the holidays) and to reflect on what they have," said Matthew Dueck, a student at Canadian Mennonite University.

He said Christmas is a perfect time to ask Kenney to be more generous.

Last June, Kenney signed off on changes to the interim federal health program, which covers health-care needs of refugees before they are eligible for provincial care.

Claimants can now be denied certain types of care, depending on the type of refugee and their country of origin.

Recently, a Saskatchewan man was denied chemotherapy treatments. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall called the decision "un-Canadian."

Manitoba Health Minister Theresa Oswald has said Manitoba will cover the care for refugees and send the tab to Ottawa.

Kenney hopes to shave $20 million off the $84-million annual cost of the program.

He said the cuts would mostly target those who are wrongly seeking asylum and would prevent asylum-seekers from gaining access to health care other Canadians do not have.

Dueck said 59 cents is the amount per Canadian per year it would take to raise the $20 million.

-- Mia Rabson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 17, 2012 A8

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