Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar MP Kelly Block represents one of the most diverse constituencies in Saskatchewan.
Her riding includes the west side of Saskatoon, which is home to a disproportionate number of new Canadians, immigrants, refugees and refugee claimants. This is a population, by the way, that has been welcomed by the city and the province, and has deeply enriched Saskatoon.
Into this waded Ms. Block, bragging that she has been working hard by ending “unfair benefits” for refugee claimants.
“New arrivals to Canada have received dental and vision care paid by your tax dollars,” she complains in a newsletter. “They’ve had free prescriptions.
In tone and inflammatory language, Ms. Block’s mail-out resembles those distributed by former Saskatoon-Humboldt MP Jim Pankiw, who claimed that taxpayers were forced unfairly to provide gold-plated services to First Nations people. His was a claim deemed so odious and out of sync with the Conservative and Canadian Alliance parties that the party leadership dropped him as a candidate.
Ms. Block told The StarPhoenix on the weekend it was she who chose the topic for her mail-out, and had done so to educate her constituents. Although her position on these benefits isn’t difficult to glean from the tone of the document, Ms. Block insists she only wanted state the facts about the government’s new policy.
Unfortunately, her missive does a poor job of putting that policy in perspective, and seems to paint all “new arrivals to Canada” with the same brush as those whom Immigration Minister Jason Kenney suggests are claiming refugee status merely to get their teeth fixed.
Perhaps Ms. Block should have checked with her party before she did the mail-out. Mr. Kenney’s April announcement about his plan to yank refugee benefits – which Canada had agreed in treaties to provide – elicited such vociferous opposition that his department quietly amended its website within three months to say that it was retreating from measures that Ms. Block still seems to believe is government policy.
Mr. Kenney initially had said the government would amend the Interim Federal Health Program, which provides refugees with supplemental health benefits similar to what provincial social service agencies offer to people on social assistance. But on the Friday before the Canada Day long weekend, the government changed its website to say that not all refugee claimants would lose those benefits.
Privately sponsored refugees and those who are in Canada as part of the government’s resettlement programs would receive help. The change meant only those whose claims have been rejected or are likely to do so will lose coverage.
Health professionals warn that cutting back on preventive medical treatment for people who are disproportionately in need will transfer a far greater burden onto provincial health programs for those eventually accepted into Canada.
Ms. Block was back in Saskatoon last week while Parliament was on a weeklong Thanksgiving break, and used at least some of the time campaigning door-to-door for some city council candidates. One hopes she took the opportunity to try quell the divisive nature of her newsletter.
The editorials that appear in this space represent the opinion of The StarPhoenix. They are unsigned because they do not necessarily represent the personal views of the writers. The positions taken in the editorials are arrived at through discussion among the members of the newspaper’s editorial board, which operates independently from the news departments of the paper.
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Article posted in Immigration, Reform, Refugees, Reports/Statistics/Opinions, etc.