Advocacy groups recently protested cuts to health care benefits for refugee claimants. Now a new law could make them ineligible for funding for basic assistance.
Photo Credit: CBC

New law may cut assistance for refugee claimants


Refugee claimants in Canada may apply for and get funding from provincial governments when they first arrive in Canada, but a new law could make them ineligible to apply.

Residency requirement would disqualify newcomers

The federal government is proposing legislation that would allow provinces to impose minimum residency requirements that could disqualify applicants who are newly-arrived.

“We consider ourselves in Canada as a country that is opening and kind to refugees as a safe haven,” says Michèle Biss, a coordinator with the anti-poverty group, Canada Without Poverty.  “Instead refugees will arrive in Canada and have absolutely access to nothing after fleeing incredible persecution and probably war.”


Doctors protested health care cuts

This is the second time the Canadian government has tried to cut benefits to refugee claimants. Doctors and advocacy groups protested cuts to basic health care that was provided to asylum seekers. Those cuts were disallowed by the Federal Court which deemed them “cruel and unusual punishment” and, as such, contrary to constitutional guarantees. The government is appealing the decision.

If refugee claimants are denied access to social assistance, Biss says they will have to rely more heavily on food banks and other aid organizations which are already having difficulty meeting the needs of the poor.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander says Canada has the most fair and generous immigration system, but Canadians have “no tolerance for those who abuse our generosity.” © Canadian Press/file photo

Minister implies refugee claimants ‘abuse our generosity’

In defending the cuts, a spokesman for the immigration minister wrote an email to the Globe and Mail saying “Canadians have no tolerance for those who abuse our generosity and who take unfair advantage of our generosity.” This is language similar to that used when the government cut health care benefits and passed previous changes to immigration law. It is language which outraged doctors and refugee advocates.

Cuts would contravene international obligations, advocates say

In the case of social assistance, Biss says that provincial governments have standards in place to prevent fraud and she wonders why the federal government doesn’t trust them. Beyond that, she says Canada has signed international treaties which oblige it to ensure all people in Canada have access to basic needs. To exclude refugee claimants, she says, is discriminatory.

The Canadian Council for Refugees agrees and notes that Canada has signed the United Nations’ Refugee Convention and “has legal obligations toward refugees who seek asylum in our country.”

Plea for Canada to live up to its reputation

“They should be given the right to arrive in Canada and meet a country that does help them with their basic needs and helps them access services and be able to help them start a new life in Canada,” says Biss. “That’s our reputation and that’s something that we should be working towards.”

Posted in Immigration & Refugees, Politics, Society

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.