Refugee health-care flyers draw fire to Conservatives

As election campaigns shift toward addressing the ongoing refugee crisis, people have been tweeting Conservative Party survey mailouts that they say highlight "loaded" language against refugees.

Survey flyers ask for readers' opinion on health-care cuts for refugees

These surveys, which ask about health-care cuts to refugees, were supposedly mailed to various ridings held by Conservative MPs over the past few years. (Carly Hiannon/Twitter)

UPDATE (3:25 p.m. ET, Sept. 9 2015): Conservative candidate Paul Calandra confirmed that the mailout sent to his riding came from his office. "Canadians, especially those in my riding, have no patience for these abusive and fraudulent individuals," Calandra said in a statement.

As election campaigns shift toward addressing the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, people have been tweeting Conservative Party mailouts that are said to have "loaded" language against refugees. 

Several of these surveys, which ask about health-care cuts to refugees, were supposedly mailed to various ridings held by Conservative MPs over the past few years.

The ones that have been posted online include questions like, "Should refugees get gold-plated dental, vision and drug benefits" and "What level of health-care benefits do you believe the government should provide to failed and fraudulent refugee claimants?"

The above survey was apparently mailed out in 2012 by Scott Reid, the Conservative incumbent running in the Ontario riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston. 

A second mailout appeared in response to the first, this time regarding the Conservative candidate in Markham-Stouffville, a riding north of Toronto. 

Mailouts that accuse refugees of unfairly gaining access to health services have appeared elsewhere. One surfaced in 2012 sent by Kelly Block, now a Saskatchewan Conservative candidate in Carlton Trail-Eagle Creek, to members of the constituency.

It then asks the reader's thoughts, with the options, "Newcomers don't deserve more benefits than Canadians" and "Refugees claimants should get dental, vision and pharmacare even if I don't," similar to the language used in the Ontario mailouts. 

"You know it was never my intention to be offensive or to create any confusion," Block told CBC News in 2012. "I think the changes were necessary, I think it's good policy. That content was intended to be in the flyer."

The 2012 messages were sent around the same time the Harper government cut supplemental health benefits to many refugee claimants, specifically in regards to the Interim Federal Health Program. It covers refugee claimants, among other groups, that don't qualify for provincial or territorial coverage, providing health-care services like dental and vision care

Most of these cuts were temporarily restored in November 2014, after the Federal Court called the policy shift unconstitutional, though not to the extent they were originally. The case is ongoing. 

Social media reaction to all three mailouts has been swift, as people are reminded of ads sent out in past years. 

Another set of ads that showcased questionable language has been circulating on Twitter, though unrelated to refugees. 

The campaign offices for Paul Calandra and Scott Reid did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Huffington Post, however, was told by Reid's campaign office that it would be looked into over the long weekend.


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