REGINA -- Saskatchewan's health minister said he couldn’t provide details when asked why the government denied healthcare coverage to a baby with Canadian citizenship.

The child was born in Regina in August 2020. The child's mother, who has worked as a healthcare provider, is an Indian citizen who came to Canada in 2018 on a student visa. Her visa has since expired and she’s waiting to find out if she’s eligible for another.

Her child is a Canadian citizen according to the Citizenship Act, which defines any child born in Canada as a citizen. All Canadian citizens are entitled to healthcare coverage according to the act.

“It’s very cruel,” said Ms. Pereira, the infant's mother. “I am in a very difficult position, waiting to see if I am eligible for a student visa. I have a letter of offer from the University of Saskatchewan, and I have worked in the healthcare field. I am ready to work and contribute.”

Ms. Pereira asked that her first name not be reported.

Merriman responded to the allegations, saying no one was denied healthcare, but stopped short of answering questions that addressed the child’s citizenship, or why the family was billed.

“It’s complicated and I don’t want to get into the specifics of the exact case,” Merriman said.

He said that Saskatchewan residents should not be billed for medical services, but declined to comment on why it allegedly occurred in this case.

Merriman said the family is capable of challenging the costs of the infant's healthcare.

The NDP MLA for Regina Elphinstone-Centre, Meara Conway, was contacted by Ms. Pereira. She called the rejection of coverage for the child discrimination based on the immigration status of the mother.

“The government must immediately provide health coverage to this child and ensure that no other Canadian citizens are discriminated against and are treated in this way in the future,” Conway said.

Merriman said his office would be in contact with the family and the health authority to weigh the options.