Hundreds of doctors, nurses, refugees and others gathered in Winnipeg to protest the federal government's planned cuts to health-care services for refugees.
Approximately 300 people took part in a rally at The Forks during the noon hour on Monday to oppose government cuts to the interim federal health program, which provides extended health-care benefits to refugees.
After June 30, the costs of some basic health services such as prescription drugs, vision and dental care will no longer be covered by Ottawa for refugees.
Ali Saed, who came to Winnipeg almost three decades ago, said the changes are a travesty.
"It's painful for me. I used to celebrate every year [on] July 1 with happiness and a big hope. Now I can see it's dark and I'm very disappointed," he said.
Saed said he came to Canada from a prison in Somalia 27 years ago, starving and weighing only 51 kilograms.
If he had not received medical care at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, he would be disabled or dead, he said.
The Conservative government argues that the extended benefits refugees currently enjoy are better than those that most Canadians receive.
Under the new plan, refugees will see their health-care coverage pared back to emergency services. In some cases, they can receive care if it is required to prevent or treat a disease that could be a public health concern.
Similar protests were held Monday on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and in other cities across the country.