Canada Considering Revision Of ‘discriminatory’ Rule that Rejects Immigrants With Disabilities
Canada Considering Revision Of ‘discriminatory’ Rule that Rejects Immigrants With Disabilities

Canada Considering Revision Of ‘discriminatory’ Rule that Rejects Immigrants With Disabilities

Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen indicated earlier this week that his office was considering changing a part of the country’s Immigration Act, which according to advocates discriminates against persons having disabilities.

Hussen made the statement while appearing before a parliamentary committee reviewing one of the provisions contained in the act called excessive demand or 38-1C.

Under this rule, people having disabilities and their families can be denied permanent residency on account of placing a greater burden on the country’s  public-funded healthcare and social service set up.

The testimony came after an investigation by the TV network Global News showed that Canadian immigration officials use incorrect information to possibly refuse hundreds of immigration applications and also that officials often fail to furnish cost estimates in the “procedural fairness letters” given to people whose applications have been denied due to “medical inadmissibility.”

Including cost estimates is mandatory as per current Canadian law.

Hussen said that a review of the law was “necessary and long overdue.”  He noted that the provision had been in place for 40 years and was incompatible with the country’s current values of inclusiveness of people with disabilities.

A Long Held Demand Of Immigration Advocates and Experts

The excessive demand provision has long been called “unjust” by immigration advocates and experts saying that it treated people with disabilities unfairly and also resulted in separating families.

Hussen has said that several options are being explored with regards to revising the provision.

Changes could include the doubling or tripling of the cost threshold used to deny applicants, modifying the groups exempted, or redefining the services considered while deeming applicants inadmissible, he said.

Adrienne Smith, an immigration lawyer with Jordan Batista LLP  said that with the ministry is considering the changes to the law as the current process is “unfair” .

Currently only refugees and their families are exempt from the provisions of Section 38 . According  to Hussen, the introduction of the options could result in the approval of almost 80 percent all those applicants at present being denied under the provision’s rules.

However Smith warned that changing the law to reduce the extent of discrimination wasn’t enough as it would still remain unfair for others.

Newspaper Investigation Revealed Discrepancy In Application Assessment Process

Under present rules, a person is termed “medically inadmissible” if Immigration Canada rules that the health or social service related costs to treat their medical condition is more than the threshold of $6,655 on an annual basis.

An investigation carried out by Global News  revealed discrepancy in how the government estimates the threshold levels.

In his testimony before the committee, Michael MacKinnon, a senior manager with Immigration Canada’s health division, said that Global News’ estimates were not correct since costs such as social housing and assistance were omitted while assessing medical inadmissibility and so weren’t included in the $6,655 threshold.

However a review of various decisions by Immigration Canada revealed that applicants for permanent residency have been turned down due to requiring housing and social assistance related to their disability.

An example is the case of  Sandra Ivonne Gonzalez Ortiz who had submitted an application to sponsor her brother Romeo to enter Canada as a permanent resident. However her application was denied on the grounds that he suffered from “mental retardation” and the costs related to his care within Canada would be very high.

The potential costs included by Immigration Canada to justify the rejection included  the Ontario Disability Support Program, nutrition programs such as Meals on Wheels, attendant care, travel costs to doctor’s appointments, and supportive housing.

The contradiction seen between this decision and MacKinnon’s testimony was highlighted by Global News.  No clarification has been provided so far.

Support For Changes From Across All Parties

MPs from all parties have supported the proposal to change the provision.

Calling the current policy “egregious” Liberal MP Nick Whalen said that it was against the spirit of Canada’s inclusive values. He further noted that allowing 1,000 of such applicants into the country would not put any real burden on Canada’s health care or social care systems, while cleansing its soul.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said that the policy was “ableist” and that the committee had heard sufficient testimony regarding the improper usage of the rule.



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