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Fifty nine cents: An open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Fifty nine cents.

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

My family came to Canada as refugees. My mother and father arrived in the country at Pier 21 in Halifax with a suitcase, the clothes on their back, and $20 in their pockets. Having access to health care was vitally important to them, not least to my mother when she became pregnant with me. I am a child of Canadian maternal health care.

My parents went on to give back to the country that had treated them generously and compassionately. My father became a physician and contributed a lifetime of work to the Canadian health care system. My mother became a pioneering environmentalist, conservationist, and educator. She is a recipient of both the Order of Canada and Order of New Brunswick in recognition for a lifetime of service to her adopted country.

Thus, I find it shameful and unacceptable that Canada is cutting the health care that refugees in this country will be able to receive. These cuts include access to vision care, dental care, prescription drugs, and mobility devices. For many refugees it will also include restrictions on primary and basic health care that all Canadians receive. This includes medical assistance during emergencies like heart attacks and even during childbirth.

I can't believe that the government of my country would be so stingy and churlish as to adopt such heartless, pointless, and punitive measures. The $25 billion that the F-35 stealth fighter jets will cost would be sufficient to fund the $84 million Interim Federal Health Program for 300 years.

I agree with agree with Ontario physician Dr. Paul Caulford who has said that, "I cannot understand how my government can take the most vulnerable of people and decide it's appropriate to make them more vulnerable." This is not the Canada that my parents came to as displaced refugees. Such attitudes don't represent the country that I was born into. Such actions do not reflect the long tradition of Canada as a compassionate and generous nation, a beacon of hope for the homeless, persecuted, and disposed.

Consequently, I'm returning the $0.59 per capita cost that your government will save as a result of this dreadful decision. Please consider this my per capita contribution to the Interim Federal Health Program.

Please represent the people Canada through compassion and humanity not heartless humiliation of the vulnerable. Please reverse these cuts made by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

I look forward to your response to this urgent matter.

Kind regards,

Christopher Majka

P. S. For further information see The 59 Cents Campaign for Refugee Healthcare.

Christopher Majka is an ecologist, environmentalist, policy analyst, and writer. He is the director of Natural History Resources and Democracy: Vox Populi.

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