Court loss on refugee health cuts may still be Conservative win

Court loss on refugee health cuts may still be Conservative win

It’s tough to see the Conservative scapegoating of refugees as anything but an electoral gambit, writes Martin Patriquin


For the several years, the word “bogus” has been a favourite at the offices of the Citizenship and Immigration ministry.

Previous immigration minister Jason Kenney used “bogus” no less than eight times in a 10-minute speech in 2012, and liberally peppered his office’s press releases with the term throughout the latter two years of his tenure. Canadian press quoted and paraphrased Kenney saying the word more than 30 times during his nearly five years as minister, always in reference to Kenney’s bogeyman of choice: Canada’s refugee and asylum system.

Current Minister Chris Alexander has continued Kenney’s “bogus” legacy, using it six times in a recent eight-minute speech about Canada’s refugee system. In fact, Kenney and Alexander have rarely spoken about our refugee and asylum system without mentioning the “bogus” claimants around the world who would take advantage of it. The system, as Kenney said in 2010, is “famously ineffective”—ripe for abuse by criminal gangs, roving caravan types and other assorted layabouts.

Alexander didn’t use the term in the wake of the Federal Court’s judicial drubbing of his government’s attempts to fix one aspect of this apparently broken system; he instead offered up a bromide to the put-upon Canadian taxpayer before tersely declaring his intent to appeal the decision.

And what a decision. In the words of Federal Court Justice Anne Mactavish, the Conservatives’ attempts to wean the world’s welfare bums off the bountiful Canadian teat amounted to “cruel and unusual” punishment of those in the refugee system. The measures in the Conservative government’s Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, which severely restrict heath care coverage for refugee claimants, “shocks the conscience and outrages our standards of decency.”

Certainly, it is all of that, and kudos to Judge Mactavish for noting as much with such rhetorical flourish. Beyond the courts, though the bigger and more cynical issue is the reason why the Conservatives would deny access to medical care to refugees in the first place. It isn’t to weed out those “bogus” claimants, or out of a sense of duty to the Canadian taxpayer. When considered as but one item on the laundry list of judicial defeats suffered by the Conservatives since 2011, it’s tough to see the Conservative scapegoating of refugees as anything but an electoral gambit.

As this list helpfully points out, the Conservative government has suffered no less than nine judicial defeats since its re-election three years ago. The vast majority were on identity issues closely aligned to the social conservative wing of the party. The government challenged and lost on supervised injection sites, prostitution laws, early parole abolition, judicial sentencing discretion for time served, mandatory minimums, Senate reform, and the growing of medical marijuana.

It’s a stretch to say the Conservatives built laws specifically to fail in court, but their failure doesn’t hurt the brand nearly as much as some might think. Rather, the Conservative operative would say that the party has instead garnered crucial talking points for the coming election. By thwarting Conservative laws, the various courts—whose judges are as unelected as your local senator, remember—have essentially shown themselves to be the liberal (and Liberal) friend to every pot-smoking, drug-injecting, prostitute-loving, refugee-coddling softie out there. Each judicial decision against the Conservatives reaffirms a collective belief, and reinforces a handy stereotype.

In the most recent Federal Court case regarding refugees, the government isn’t quite clear on what constitutes a “bogus” claim. I asked, and the ministry sent a list of rejected, abandoned and withdrawn claims so far in 2014. The inference, I guess, is that every denied or dropped claim is inherently bogus. The number of refugee claimants doesn’t suggest a surge in abuse: as this chart shows, there were roughly 34,000 accepted refugee claimants in 2011, down from 2003’s 25-year high of 42,400.

In the end, though, it doesn’t much matter, because Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives scored a double whammy. Having spent years making the case that Canada’s refugee system is replete with “bogus” claims, they can now claim the courts are in favour of immigrant hoards leeching off the Canadian dream. Even in loss they win.

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Court loss on refugee health cuts may still be Conservative win

  1. As is usually the case……Lawyers are more concerned about protecting their lucrative fees; moreso than protecting refugees. bogus or otherwise.

    Here’s a novel idea…..let’s have some more laws restricting the rates lawyers can charge the crown. How about 50% of the going rate, with a cap.

    Remember, judges are just lawyers with better robes.

    • So no free market?

      • Gayle,

        If you have ever worked with lawyers dealing with government……you will most likely know about the rates. Lawyers are like gas stations……..they insist there is no collusion or price fixing….but the prices show otherwise.

        • The government could hire lawyers who work for less. The problem is they tend to retain firms whose members donate to their party. They repay them for that donation with our tax dollars.

          • Gayle,

            We have found a point of agreement. I don’t care what party’s lawyers support……..I still find the majority of them are lacking any sense of real ethics.

            No one should be paid $500 to $1000 per hour (hello Clayton!!) unless they are removing a tumour from ones brain.

            When it comes to most lawyers…..Shakespeare was right.

    • Though it’s interesting that you ascribe nefarious intent to all lawyers based on your completely unsubstantiated opinion of the motivating factors in this case, yet you miss the point of Harper spending tax dollars on losing initiatives only to solidify his votes. Apparently it’s ok for him to be motivated out of self interest then.

      • Gayle, nefarious intent and lawyers are pretty much the status quo if you have ever received a legal bill. ($6.25 per photo copy, $55 per 5 minute phone call, $125 for half hour lunch discussion..etc..etc..)

        The legal cases the Government has been involved in are not brought lightly, and there is no self interest involved. Harper is not pocketing the lawyers fees……lawyers are; which is why lawyers are more concerned with ensuring the cases drag on…and on…and on……all billable hours. The final verdict is rarely the modus operandi…………it is the billable hours. end result still pays the lawyers the same rates in most cases.

        • That is simply silly. Why would Harper propose legislation that everyone tells him is unconstitutional, and spend all our tax dollars finding out it is unconstitutional, unless he is trying to do something else?

          Are you saying Harper is too stupid to take the advice of experts?

          • Gayle,

            Simply putting the work “expert” in front of a name, does not make one an expert. Being a lawyer or judge, one would conclude that a lawyer is an expert in law, however, the number of judgements reversed upon appeal show clearly that “experts” are often wrong.

            Tangent: Michael Mann….was widely considered an “expert” in climate change, and now he’s been shown to be a fraud.

            I would say that Harper is “too smart” to simply fall for claims of expertise, when facts show differently.

  2. What we actually have is a bogus govt.

    We can fix that.

    • Must have been bogus since 2006 then….as Canadians keep electing them. Repeatedly.

      • Gee, and you can say that with a straight face after all the Alberta Bloc robocalls, and overspending and outright lying in a barrage of ads and other Nixonian dirty tricks.

        • Emily,

          As you have apparently not been paying attention:

          robocalls – verdict: nothing to it, and no impact on election results. One or two dudes in Guelph will pay for their actions, but the government had nothing to do with it.

          overspending: All governments do that….but this one is doing far less than the Liberals. I don’t approve….but there you go.

          barrage of ads: Well, given the ads to date have all been an accurate reflection of trudeau and what he’s said in the past….what is there to attack. Just the facts Ma’am…and that’s what the ads show.

          Nixonian dirty tricks: Ok….provide us a list of “tricks” that are comparable to Watergate.