Immigration Minister Jason Kenney
Credits: REUTERS/CHRIS WATTIE
"It's scandalous behaviour," NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said Wednesday. "To start saying that you're going to deprive them of something as fundamental as health care is an indication that there is something very wrong with the values of the Conservatives."
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae accused the Tories of trying to punish refugees and whip up hostility against them.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Mulcair and Rae are wrong.
"Canadians have been telling us they don't think that smuggled migrants and bogus asylum claimants should be getting better health-care benefits than Canadian seniors and taxpayers," Kenney said. "They won't be getting extras that Canadians don't get, like dental, eye care, and discretionary pharmaceuticals."
Most refugee claimants will still get coverage similar to most provincial health plans while officials determine whether their claim is genuine, but coverage for prescription drugs, glasses, and dentist visits would disappear.
So, claimants would still be covered if they go to a doctor to get checked out for a cold or flu, but they'd have to pay for antibiotics.
NDP immigration critic Jinny Sims argues that's not enough for poor refugee claimants who come to Canada with serious dental or eye problems.
Rejected claimants or those who come from so-called "safe" countries, like European Union members who almost never produce legitimate claims, would get only bare bones coverage "to prevent or treat a disease posing a risk to public health or a condition of public safety concern."
The Conservatives hope to have a bill that would allow them to declare countries "safe" passed by late June.
Changes to the Interim Federal Health Program for current and future refugee claimants go into effect June 30.