The federal government will appeal a court decision overturning its cuts to refugee health-care funding, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said today.
Earlier Friday, the Federal Court released a decision giving the government four months to change federal cuts to refugee health care. The court threatened to strike down the changes.
Alexander told reporters at a news conference the government "vigorously defends the interests of Canadian taxpayers" and said he wants to emphasize "genuine refugees." The appeal goes to the Federal Court of Appeal, but could end up in the Supreme Court if one side challenges the Federal Court of Appeal's eventual decision.
The distinction between what the government calls "bogus" and "genuine" refugees has drawn substantial criticism from opponents of its immigration and refugee system reforms.
The Federal Court found the government's treatment of refugees is "cruel and unusual" because it jeopardizes their health and shocks the conscience of Canadians.
Judge Anne Mactavish ruled the federal cabinet has the power to make such changes and that the procedure was fair, but that the people affected by the changes are being subjected to "cruel and unusual" treatment.
"This is particularly, but not exclusively, so as it affects children who have been brought to this country by their parents," Mactavish wrote in the 268-page decision.
"The 2012 modifications to the [Interim Federal Health Program] potentially jeopardize the health, the safety and indeed the very lives, of these innocent and vulnerable children in a manner that shocks the conscience and outrages Canadian standards of decency.
"I have found as a fact that lives are being put at risk."
'Extremely compelling' findings
The Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and Justice for Children and Youth welcomed the decision.
Dr. Philip Berger, co-founder of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, took aim at Alexander and his assertion that some refugee claimants are "bogus." Alexander wasn't the first Conservative minister to use the phrase: Jason Kenney, his predecessor in the file, used it liberally when he was the minister in charge of immigration.
"It is breathtaking to me how uninformed Minister Alexander is about his own portfolio," Berger said, asking how Alexander can declare any claimants to be bogus when the changes apply to those who haven't yet had hearings to determine their status.
Federal government to appeal ruling reversing 'cruel' cuts to refugee health