Hundreds of residents feel an MP’s flyer was inappropriate and expressed their opinion at a rally outside Kelly Block’s office. Jessica Kent reports. Oct 20.
Anger over a controversial mail-out by a Conservative MP that condemns “unfair” health benefits for Canadian refugee claimants has turned into a rallying cry for Saskatoon residents who want medicare expanded to cover things such as prescription drugs and dental care.
More than 250 people gathered outside the constituency office of Conservative MP Kelly Block on Saturday to protest what they call the “racist” and “divisive” message of a mail-out sent two weeks ago by the MP that applauds a recent decision by the federal government to end free dental and vision care and prescriptions for certain refugees.
Some placards at the rally went as far as calling the mail-out “xenophobic.” Others say Block’s message is politically motivated and misinformed.
“They are intentionally sowing division for their own political gain,” Dr. Mahli Brindamour told the crowd. “This offensive flyer fosters intolerance by pitting Canadians against each other and against some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.”
In the mail-out, Block invites recipients to respond to a survey that has two different options. The first option reads, “I agree with Kelly Block. Newcomers don’t deserve more benefits than Canadians.”
The other option reads, “I disagree. Refugee claimants should get dental, vision and pharmacare even if I don’t.”
Saturday’s rally was itself not free of partisan politics. Several prominent NDP MPs and supporters were on hand including former premier Lorne Calvert, MLA David Forbes, MLA and NDP leadership candidate Cam Bro-ten as well as Brindamour’s husband, NDP leadership candidate Dr. Ryan Meili.
Meili, a physician who works with refugees, said the outcry over the flyer speaks to the need to expand coverage for all Canadians, not simply those who are in the most dire need.
“We can provide for everyone. Cutting (health coverage) for these people just sends the message that we are giving up on providing for ourselves,” said Meili after speaking to the crowd.
Meili said the rollbacks to refugee coverage are a “test” of the population’s willingness to accept cuts to medi-care.
“I think we need to continue to provide for the refugee population and expand coverage, expand and improve medicare – because it works. It saves money. It provides better health outcomes and it’s just,” he said.
Nayyar Javed also spoke at the rally. She moved to Canada from Pakistan more than 40 years ago. She said providing health coverage for refugees who need it is about more than politics.
“It’s an ethical issue. If you follow ethics I would say there is no question in my mind that we should be (providing care to refugees),” she said. “If they are suffering from diabetes, if they have cancer, if they have a heart problem as human beings, does it not compel us to offer them some help?”
Block was not able to reached for comment Saturday, though the Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar MP has previously said she might have worded the mail-out differently even though she agrees with the new laws.
The federal government’s recent decision to limit health care benefits for some refugee claimants sparked nationwide protests in June, including one in Saskatoon.
Since then, some of the supplemental benefits for some refugee groups have been reinstated.
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix
Article posted in Arab community, Communities, Immigration, Multiculturalism, Reform, Refugees, Reports/Statistics/Opinions, etc., South/Southeast Asian community