The Huffington Post Canada | By Michael Bolen Posted: 10/17/2012 5:07 pm Updated: 10/17/2012 9:09 pm
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Tory MP Kelly Block faced a barrage of criticism from the NDP On Tuesday over an “offensive” newsletter celebrating cuts to refugee health care.
The newsletter from the MP for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in Saskatchewan touts the “ending of unfair benefits for refugee claimants.”
“New arrivals to Canada have received dental and vision care paid by your tax dollars. They’ve had free prescriptions. Not anymore,” the newsletter reads.
In question period on Tuesday, two NPD MPs took Block to task over the document.
“She is bragging about denying medication for kidney disease to an elderly woman or care to a young woman who is 18 weeks pregnant due to a sexual assault,” said Jinny Sims, the MP for Newton — North Delta in B.C. “This flyer is offensive and misleading. Will the member apologize?”
While fellow party member Helene Leblanc appeared to doze off during the question (you can see the footage in the video at the top of this story), her compatriots were not deterred from pressing their point.
Sadia Groguhé, the MP for Saint-Lambert in Quebec asked “when will the government put an end to its devastating cuts to programs for the most vulnerable in our society?”
SEE THE NEWSLETTER
Rick Dykstra, the Parliamentary Secretary to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, responded that those who are waiting to be deemed refugees will receive the same medical care as all Canadians, but that “those who come here to take advantage of our country, to take advantage of our system, to take advantage of our process, that is not what this government is going to support.”
Block has faced criticism over the newsletter since it sparked the creation of the Facebook group “Tell MP Kelly Block ‘I Disagree’ With Racism.” The group is hosting a protest outside the MP’s office this Saturday.
The newsletter has even sparked a popular parody version. One part reads: “I agree with Kelly Block! Poor newscomers who look different than me deserve to be sick unless they can pay.”
CBC comedian Rick Mercer has wondered aloud on Twitter about whether the newsletter is even real. “Sadly, yes,” a follower replied.
While Block told CBC some adjustments have been made to the mail-out, she has stopped short of apologizing.
That didn’t satisfy Murray Mandryk of Saskatoon’s The Star Phoenix.
“Leave aside Block’s sheer disregard for the truth, or even that she’s likely abused her parliamentary privileges by spewing such nonsensical propaganda at taxpayer’s expense,” Mandryk wrote this week. “What’s far more alarming is the early-20th-century tone of her mail-out was aimed to appeal to the very worst elements buried deep in the nether regions of the Conservative party’s base.”
Immigration Minister Kenney has also been the subject of press attention over literature touting cuts to refugee health care. A petition on Kenney’s website invited Canadians to thank the minister for his work to “streamline benefits afforded to refugee claimants.”
“We don’t think that smuggled migrants and bogus asylum claimants should be getting better health care benefits than Canadian seniors and taxpayers,” the petition read.
The Conservative government enacted cuts to supplemental health benefits for all refugee claimants — excluding those sponsored by the government — on June 30 as part of Bill C-31. The cuts are expected to save the federal government $100 million over five years.
The cuts have faced criticism from opposition parties and physicians groups.
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