Saskatoon dentist fights feds on refugee health cuts

A Saskatoon dentist and former refugee is part of the group that successfully challenged the federal governments changes to health care for refugees claimants.

Federal government ordered by judge to reverse refugee health care cuts

Protesters in Saskatoon rally against cuts to refugee health programs in June 2014. (David Shield/CBC)

Parviz Yazdani, a Saskatoon dentist and former refugee, is part of the group that successfully challenged the federal government's changes to health care for refugees claimants.

Yesterday, the Federal Court ruled the federal government would have to scrap the cuts it made to refugee health care two years ago. The government has four months to re-write the policy.

Dr. Parviz Yazdani practices dentistry at NEESH Dental Clinic in Saskatoon. (NEESH Dental Clinic)

Now the government says it will appeal the Federal Court decision.

Yazdani is a member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, the group that challenged the government.

"It seems that the situation is becoming worse and worse as time goes on and over the last few short years, there is increasingly a drive to create two classes of citizenship in the country," said Yazdani.

When the government made the funding cuts in 2012, it argued the the costs of the program had skyrocketed in recent years.

But the Federal Court called the changes "cruel and unusual" and said the "government targeted a vulnerable, poor and disadvantaged group".

The changes leave refugees with basic medical care and cut access to supplementary health care including dental, vision, and in some cases prescription drugs and prenatal care.

The government said the changes discourage bogus refugee claimants from coming to Canada in pursuit of free health care.

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander said the government had already saved $600 million on all levels of government by cutting the program. 

But the Federal Court Judge Anne Mactavish said there is no evidence of that dollar figure and suggested that in fact, refugee claimants could end up costing the system more in emergency care later on.

Despite the fact that the federal government has been told to change its policies, Yazdani says the group's fight is not over.

"My personal view is that when a political system decides to impose a certain decision, they will find a way to do it. So we need to be very vigilant as to what is coming down the pipelines."