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Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, has faced widespread criticism in recent weeks for his government’s cuts to refugee health care.
Doctors and other health-care workers have held protest actions across the country and disrupted speaking appearances by government ministers. A broad range of civil society groups have also condemned the cuts.
Yesterday a petition thanking Minister Kenney for the cuts was highlighted on a website. It read, in part: “We, the undersigned, thank Jason Kenney for his efforts to streamline benefits afforded to refugees claimants under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) and bring them in line with the benefits received by tax-paying Canadians, including new Canadians…”
There is something a bit peculiar about the petition, however. It is hosted on Kenney’s own website.
The backlash was immediate, and medical professionals across the country were among those quick to respond to Kenney’s self-congratulation.
“It is only the most cynical of people that would attempt to congratulate himself for denying access to health care for some of the most vulnerable amongst us,” said Dr. Meb Rasid, medical director of the Crossroads Clinic at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. “This is yet another low for Minister Kenney.”
“As the wide-based opposition mounts to Minister Kenney’s poorly conceived cuts to refugee health care, perhaps his self-congratulatory petition was just a little premature. We will continue to pressure this government for a full reversal of these announced cuts,” said Dr. Mark Tyndall, Chief of Infectious Diseases at The Ottawa Hospital.
Dr. Ritika Goel also shared some thoughts about Kenney’s petition with rabble.ca:
“Jason Kenney’s petition asks Canadians to support his inhumane public policy which cuts health care to refugees. Firstly, implementing a policy that attacks the right to health of some of the most vulnerable in our society is shameful. Secondly, calling the policy fair and cost-saving is plain wrong. But mostly, advocating for such a policy by asking people to sign your petition on your own website is just embarrassing. These cuts will cost us — in money, in human dignity, and in human lives. What will it take to finally wake Kenney up?”
At least one counter-petition has already been launched, asking Canadians to sign on in protest against both the cuts to refugee health and Kenney’s “transparent self-promotion.”