It’s hard to look at yourself objectively, but rightly or wrongly, I’ve always thought of Canadians as peaceful, fair, decent, thoughtful and compassionate people who respect diversity, care about social justice and try to do the right thing. Oh sure, there are plenty of exceptions, and we’ve had our share of collective ugliness too. Overall, though, I see us as basically good and decent.
But lately I get the sense that we’re not as good or decent as we used to be. With Stephen Harper at the helm, Canada is becoming increasingly stingy, short-sighted and mean-spirited. Canada is becoming unkind.
Take, for example, the proposed cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), which provides extended health care to refugees. “Extended” includes everything from essential medications for non-communicable diseases, chemotherapy, dental care, vision care and counseling.
Refugees are one of the most vulnerable and devastated groups in Canada. Many of them have come from absolutely brutal sub-human conditions, and some of them have lived in these conditions their entire lives. They’ve endured war, rape, famine, poverty, disease, stress and trauma. When they arrive, finally, in a safe place, they generally need dental care and medications, and they need help to recover from all they’ve been through.
In Stephen Harper’s Canada, we say no to a refugee mother whose child is in agony from toothaches. We say no to to a diabetic man who can’t afford insulin. We say no to a young woman who suffers from PTSD after being repeatedly raped by soldiers as a child. We say if you don’t have the money, you can suffer.
It all comes down to priorities. We can afford far more expensive and less humane things, like multi-billion-dollar fighter jets and prison expansion during times of falling crime rates. We can afford a new network of Canadian military bases around the world. We can afford a billion dollars to host that appalling 2-day G8/G20 summit in Toronto.
And yet we can’t afford approximately 20 million dollars per year for health care for refugees. That’s 59 cents per Canadian.
Happy Canada Day, Stephen Harper. Here’s my 59 cents: