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A cross-country day of action on Monday takes aim at the Harper government’s plan to drastically cut health care for refugees at the end of the month. The demonstrations in 13 cities are part of a growing wave of outrage at the cuts, which were announced in late April and take effect June 30.

The cuts will deny refugees access to preventative care or treatment – only “urgent or essential care” will be covered. The cuts also end coverage for basic medication, vision and dental care. Chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes will go unmanaged, leading to spiralling health problems.

Only infectious diseases and psychiatric conditions that are a safety threat to others will be treated. The new policy denies care to all refugees from countries Canada deems safe – a sweeping move that leaves no room to consider individual cases.

The Conservative government has justified the cuts by making offensive and outrageous claims about refugees receiving more or better health care than Canadian residents. In reality, refugees and low-income Canadians get similar coverage, and many Canadians have access to prescription drug, dental and vision coverage through their workplace health coverage. The answer to gaps in coverage is to expand public health care to include Pharmacare —  not cut support to the most vulnerable.

These cuts are mean-spirited, and based on false arguments. Immigration minister Jason Kenney is spreading racist myths about refugees. Access to health care is not a wedge issue – it is something that unites and defines us as Canadians,” says CUPE National President Paul Moist.

This is about as un-Canadian as it gets. Denying health care to vulnerable, traumatized people who’ve often fled horrible circumstances is unspeakably cruel.”

CUPE health care workers will see the impact of the cuts on the front lines in clinics, emergency rooms and other health care settings.

If these cuts go ahead, health care workers will be in the untenable position of denying care to those who need it most. We’re calling on the Conservative government to show compassion and stop these cuts,” says Moist.

While the government claims the cuts will save $100 million over five years, the cuts are a false economy. Preventative primary care is the most cost-effective (and compassionate) way to deliver public health care. Untreated illnesses will become complicated conditions that lead to unnecessary suffering, and require emergency room visits and hospital stays.