A number of doctors and former refugees rallied in Saskatoon on Monday, calling on the federal government to reverse cuts to refugee health-care benefits.

After June 30, the costs of some basic health services such as prescription drugs, vision and dental care will no longer be covered by the federal government for refugees.


Protesters hold signs at a rally in Saskatoon on Monday calling on the government to reverse its planned cuts to extended health-care benefits for refugees. (CBC)

In many cases, refugees will see their health-care coverage pared back to emergency services.

Exceptions will be made in cases in which care is required to prevent or treat a disease that could be a public health concern.

Government officials estimate the changes to the interim federal health program will save $20 million a year for the next five years.

But Dr. Mahli Brindamour, a Saskatoon doctor, argued that cutting those services will actually cost the government more money in the long run.

"People will seek care in an emergency fashion," Brindamour said.

"If they had access to preventative and primary health care, their conditions could have been either prevented or diagnosed earlier."

Mina Niazi, who came to Canada from Afghanistan, said her parents needed health-care services when they arrived in the country a decade ago.

"There were times that they were going through depression and low self-esteem because they were not able to have the jobs in the background that they came from," she said.

"So I think they have greatly benefited from what has been available to them."

The Conservative government argues that the extended benefits refugees enjoy are better than those that most Canadians receive.

Similar protests were held on Monday on Parliament Hill and in cities across the country.

With files from The Canadian Press