Q&A: John McCallum, immigration, refugees and citizenship minister

Maclean’s spoke to the new minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship before election day about what would become his new portfolio

Liberal MP John McCallum stands in the House of Commons during question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, June 11, 2015. Fred Chartrand/CP

Liberal MP John McCallum stands in the House of Commons during question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on  June 11, 2015 (Fred Chartrand/CP)

On Sept. 23, during the heat of the election campaign, Maclean’s spoke with John McCallum, the newly appointed minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, about whether the Liberal party would proceed with a federal appeal of the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling that severe cuts made to refugee health care by the Conservative government were unconstitutional. The changes made to the Interim Federal Health program in 2012 drastically reduced the medical insurance provided to refugees who are privately sponsored, or who make a refugee claim upon arriving in Canada—and affected even pregnant women and children. The Syrian migration has reignited outcry over the cuts; many legal and health experts are calling for the program to be reinstated in its original form. The federal appeal was supposed to be heard beginning on Oct. 26, but has since been postponed. What happens next will be largely at the discretion of McCallum. (One small change the Liberals have already made that sends a big signal about how this government is different than the last one: “Refugees” was added to McCallum’s formal title.)

Q: Does the Liberal party support the cuts made to the refugee health program in 2012, and will the Liberal party reinstate the program as it was before the cuts, if elected?

A: Absolutely. I think we are clear on this. We have opposed the Conservative action from the start. We will fully reinstate this program. And indeed, we don’t have a choice, in a way, because the court has already said it’s cruel and unusual and, therefore, unconstitutional. So even with that from the court, the government is still resisting, so we have made it clear from Day 1 that we would reinstate this program. We think it’s unconscionable that the government would impact the most vulnerable refugee applicants in this way. Indeed, they’re shooting themselves in the foot, because it probably ends up costing taxpayers more, because the federal government may save some money, but then, people, if they’re really sick, they’ll go to emergency, then that ends up costing more. So it’s both morally wrong and, as the court says, cruel and unusual, and financially stupid.

Related: Justin Trudeau’s risky refugee promise

Q: What did you think of [former prime minister] Stephen Harper’s characterization of the Conservative government’s role in refugee health care during the federal debate last week, when he said the Conservatives have not taken away health care from immigrants and refugees, that it just removed it from “bogus claimants“?

A: This is a talking point which has been disproven over and over again. I don’t know why he would revert to that. It is simply untrue. We’ve had all the refugee lawyers and doctors involved in this case for many months. It is well documented that there are no so-called bogus refugees. It is refugee applicants, many of whom will have their cases succeed. It is a wide range of people who need our help. As the court said, it’s cruel and unusual not to provide it.

Q: The timing of the federal appeal is interesting. It’s Oct. 26 and 27, so just a week after the federal election. If the Liberals were to win this, how will that play out? What will the Liberal Party’s response be?

A: Our position is that we want to reinstate the program. I think, if we win the election and this appeal is pending, we would somehow indicate that we’re dropping it, because we want to reinstate the program. So it becomes irrelevant.


Q&A: John McCallum, immigration, refugees and citizenship minister

  1. Dear Mr. McCallum:

    Over the past number of years, I read, out of curiosity, many, many books on Muslims by Muslim authors. Now that we have the influx of refugees flooding into Europe and from there, here, I am very concerned. Of all of the immigrants to land upon our shore, they have proved to be the most fractious; it seems that they are intent upon changing our Canadian way of life to fit better with theirs. I am not sanguine to “hear” that you are satisfied that many are intent only to make a better life here; rather there are far too many young men (who should perhaps be fighting back home) who crossed and who may be ISIS.

    But foremost I hope that you will make it well known to these future Canadians that THEY ARE NOW IN CANADA AND M-U-S-T abide by Canadian laws. I recall the recent refusal of a Pakistani Islamist woman in Toronto who won the right to wear her niquad during the citizenship swearing-in ceremony and I was appalled and disgusted.

    Why do our bureaucrats pander to these people; none before have demanded and received the concessions that Muslims have. We Canadians are sick of it. We have lost the Lord’s Prayer in schools; they have gained prayer rooms; they are pressing for the exclusion of pork in school cafeterias; the list goes on.

    They also propagate like rabbits and will soon grow in striking numbers. Already in Belgium there will be enough Muslims to vote Sharia Law in by 2030. Take a look into the huge Muslim ghettos in Great Britain where police refuse to go.

    Please impress upon them that this is CANADA and the rules of our Great Country will apply to them. Please do not allow them to lobby for changes to suit their needs.

    Take a look at the refugees flooding German clinics. These people bring with them syphilis, TB, AIDS and other exotic diseases. They have over-run clinics in Germany and it is said that when they learned that they had to pay for drugs, they rioted and some left their sick children with pharmacies who wanted money for the children’s drugs indicating that they (the pharmacists) could take care of the children.

    These are things that may well be anticipated here. Many are uneducated and unfit to work and will quite possibly be on our Welfare system for years; I do not wish to pay for this.

    The Muslims pose a very real threat globally. It is Allah’s mandate (and one they say in prayers daily) that they kill the infidels and destroy the West.

    To become more informed on this particularly unwelcome immigrant population, I would advise you and your staff to contact such people as Mr. Tarek Fatah, a journalist in Toronto. He had tried to educate Mr. Alexander but this gentleman failed to listen.

    There are troubled times ahead and much of the trouble will be caused by Muslims. You would do well to learn all you can about them.

    Their intent is to establish Sharia Law globally and I do not doubt that they will eventually do this when people such as Trudeau blindly allow them into our country in droves. Your first line of duty is to protect Canadians, not to pander to these Muslims with an eye to votes later down the line.

  2. Dear Sir:

    It is me again. And I will write to you regularly in my effort to try to educate you about Muslims. You MUST learn about them to know how to deal with them. And remember, the Muslims Mr. Trudeau has been mixing with, are NOT the kind of Muslims who will be coming over in boats and airplanes.

    They are held hostage to an intransigence religion that prohibits them from thinking for themselves. They must always follow Allah: ISIS follows Allah.

    So I admonish you again and again, read up on them and speak to individuals who know them better than you will ever know them: Mr. Tarek Fatah, Salim Mansur, Farzana Hassan, Irshad Manji – these are educated Muslims who are on hit lists because they warn against the problems with Islam. Be informed.

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