Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'They should've packed their insulin when fleeing genocide'

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Just in time for Thanksgiving, a Winnipeg satirist has a video on YouTube "thanking" the federal immigration minister for taking away health benefits from refugees.

Adi Sara Kreindler said her song and slide show Thank You Jason Kenney was inspired by his policy and a petition thanking him for it that was posted on his website.

"When I first heard about the cuts to refugee health care, the policy seemed mean-spirited and potentially damaging to the most vulnerable people," said Kreindler, a provincial health policy researcher who has a PhD. The move is expected to save each Canadian 59 cents a year.

The woman, who's studied at Oxford and has a love for musical theatre, wanted to respond.

"But it seemed too heartbreaking for satire."

Then, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's personal website posted a petition that thanked him for making the cuts.

"We, the undersigned, thank Jason Kenney for his efforts to streamline benefits afforded to refugees (sic) claimants under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) and bring them in line with the benefits received by taxpaying Canadians, including new Canadians," said the petition posted to the website for the Conservative MP for Calgary Southeast.

"When I found out Jason Kenney decided to post a petition thanking himself for the cuts, the idea was pretty pathetic," said Kreindler. "I thought 'I can do a better job of thanking Jason Kenney.' "

She came up with a 1920s-style "cakewalk" ditty and video slide show poking fun at the immigration minister for refusing to cover health-care expenses such as prescription drugs for refugees. The satirical piece has lyrics like "Let's tell those refugees they'll never take us for a ride. They should've packed their insulin when fleeing genocide."

Kenney has not seen the video, said his spokeswoman Alexis Pavlich, who issued a prepared statement.

"The sensible changes we made to the IFH program are widely supported by Canadians," it said. "The changes ensure that bona fide refugees continue to receive comprehensive health coverage."

The federal government stopped providing prescription drugs, prosthetics, eye and vision care to privately sponsored refugees on June 30 and is being sued by Hospitality House Refugee Ministry for breach of contract.

The statement from the minister's office says they’re making sure "illegal immigrants and rejected asylum claimants … no longer receive gold-plated health-care benefits that are more generous than those which Canadian taxpayers, including seniors, receive."

The petition thanking Kenney wasn't apparent on his website Wednesday.

Kreindler's video, meanwhile, is on YouTube. She's performed it at a coffee house, it has aired on CKUW radio and the video has been seen and heard by much larger audiences on the Internet.

"I've never had 3,000 people come out to see the show," said Kreindler, who sings and plays piano.

She's assembled a troupe of family and friends called Just Theatre.

For Thank You Jason Kenney, her mom prepared a slide show to illustrate the song, she said.

It's a heavy subject that needed a light touch to make it more palatable for more people, she said.

"If it's funny, some people are likely to be more motivated to click on it and become aware of the issues."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2012 0


Updated on Friday, October 5, 2012 at 9:50 AM CDT: clarifies government's statement

10:01 AM: Adds video.

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