News / Ottawa

Refugees 'feel discriminated' over health care cuts, says Ottawa nurse

Refugees are walking into the Centretown Community Health Centre “every day” confused and scared about what is and what is not covered ever since the federal government scaled back health care for refugee claimants, says an outreach nurse.

Mado Mushimiyimana, a refugee who left Rwanda in 1998, has been working at the Ottawa clinic for six years and has seen a change in service.

She said when a refugee claimant walks in, staff have to navigate through several hurdles just to verify if coverage is available. If it is not, some have no choice but to go to an emergency room.

“It’s time-consuming. It’s very frustrating and so emotionally-draining for the client. They feel discriminated (against),” said Mushimiyimana.

“We see high numbers of depression, we see high number of suicide attempts, we see high number of withdrawal, we see high number of disease that we can prevent at the first place.”

When she came to Canada, Mushimiyimana said she had no issues seeking health care for an eye problem and when she gave birth to her child.

“Everything was accessed, I did not feel any different from other Canadians because I had access to everything as Canadians. But today, if my brother, my sister comes today here in Canada, they don’t have that access,” she said.

She was one of several speakers at a rally Monday on Parliament Hill for a Canada-wide protest against the Conservative government’s decision in 2012 to drastically scale back coverage for some refugee claimants.

The government said at the time refugees were abusing system by making false claims and were driving up costs of the program.

Lawyers for refugee claimants took the government to court, where Federal Court Justice Anne Mctavish ruled the government’s changes were both “cruel and unusual.”

While the government reinstated the program, certain categories of refugee claimants are not covered.

The federal government appealed Mctavish's decision and will be in front of the Federal Court of Appeal in October.

With files from The Canadian Press 

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