The NDP Opposition wants the Saskatchewan government to help refugees who lost their drug, dental and vision coverage because of federal cuts.

New Democrat Cam Broten said Wednesday that refugees, including a man in Saskatoon with cancer, are falling through the cracks.

According to Broten, the man received chemotherapy but he couldn't afford medication for the side effects and nearly quit treatment.

"It is disgusting that someone could come to this country seeking a better life, fleeing religious persecution or fleeing war and find themselves in a situation where they're facing cancer [on their own]," Broten said. "I think Canadians have bigger hearts than that."

The federal government said in the spring that benefit changes were designed to deter bogus refugee claims and ensure failed asylum seekers didn't take advantage of Canada's free health care.

Saskatchewan Health Minister Dustin Duncan said there is still a lot of confusion over what is being covered by the federal government.

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Dustin Duncan, Saskatchewan's minister of health, said the province will provide health coverage to a refugee undering treatment for cancer. (CBC )

Duncan said the province is footing the bill for the man's cancer treatments.

He added it was not clear to him why the refugee could not get federal coverage in the first place.

"This was clearly one [case] that should have met the test and, for whatever reason, doesn't meet the test of the federal government," Duncan said. "We disagree with that but in the meantime we're going to provide that coverage."

After the opposition pointed out that the man was not getting anti-nausea medication, the minister said Saskatchewan would be willing to step in and provide for that, too.

Broten said a charity was currently paying for the man's anti-nausea medication.

MP defended coverage cuts

The federal government move to limit coverage for refugees was recently the subject of considerable discussion in Saskatchewan after MP Kelly Block circulated a flyer talking about the cuts.

While Block said the information in the flyer was a draft version, she defended the policy change.

"I think the changes were necessary," the Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar MP said. "I think it's good policy."

As information about the change in coverage became more widely known, the province of Manitoba announced a program to backfill the federal cuts, for refugees in that province.

 

With files from CBC's Stefani Langenegger and The Canadian Press