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Bureaucrats saved refugee health benefits

OTTAWA - Newly released documents show Citizenship and Immigration staff had to scramble to make the case for preserving some refugee health-care benefits that were on the chopping block earlier this year.

And they were forced into a last-minute pitch to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney despite having raised concerns eight months earlier that the proposed policy wasn't clear.

The series of emails and memos released under Access to Information laws seem to contradict Kenney's assertion that benefits for resettled refugees were never meant to be axed.

Until the end of June, the government paid medical care and drug costs for all refugee claimants but then drastically scaled back the program in order to save money.

Right before the changes came into effect, refugees resettled by the government and private groups were suddenly exempted, which Kenney said was because the policy wasn't written properly.

Emails and memos show the department flagged the issue in 2011, but were left implementing the cuts for all refugees until they made a pitch to senior officials to save them.

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