Wiesel Joins Canada Push for Refugee Health

By JTA

Published July 09, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel joined a growing list of Jewish leaders who are calling on Canada to reverse changes to legislation that denies health care to refugee claimants.

In a letter released last week to the Globe and Mail newspaper, Wiesel said he supports the Toronto Board of Rabbis, which has called on Canada’s federal government to abandon the changes, which end most health benefits to certain refugees.

“As a former refugee, together with the Toronto Board of Rabbis, I feel morally compelled to remain on the side of other uprooted men and women everywhere,” Wiesel wrote. “Today, as yesterday, a nation is judged by its attitude towards refugees.”

The Globe noted that Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner, was a keynote speaker two years ago at a conference on anti-Semitism in Ottawa that was organized with the help of Canadian immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who is behind the refugee reforms.

Under the changes that took effect June 30, all benefits and payments for supplemental medical treatment formerly provided by the federal government are denied to refugees who come from a country that Canada deems “safe.” The list of countries has yet to be announced, but it is expected to include Hungary, and critics say the changes target Roma refugees.

In an unusual move for a group that rarely speaks out on political issues, the Toronto Board of Rabbis wrote Prime Minister Stephen Harper on June 18 urging him to drop the measure.

Last month, three prominent members of the Jewish community, including a former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, published a letter in the Globe pointing out parallels between the law and earlier measures designed to keep Jews out of the country.

Similarly, in a column in the Gazette, the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre urged Ottawa “to apply these new reforms with extreme caution, given the resurgence of racist and anti-Semitic threats in certain European countries.”

Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said his organization agrees with many of the changes that the Conservative government has made to refugee policy intended to prevent bogus claims. But with regard to the health benefits, he said that “we have some concerns, and we have registered some of them with the government.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.