In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."
~ ~Albert Schweitzer

Saturday, June 5, 2021

It's About Time ... Canada to Relax Medical Accessibility Issues

Canada, in many ways very progressive, has had long-standing issue with respect to immigration policy when it comes to individuals with a family member with a disability. In such situations, immigration is usually denied under a "medical" exclusion; namely, "medical conditions that ... cause[s] excessive demand on health or social services". 

As just one of numerous examples, in 2017, an American family moved to Manitoba after purchasing a hunting and fishing business. However, their application for permanent residency was denied due to  their 6-year-old daughter's intellectual disability.

At that time, the limit for “excessive demand” was set at $6,655 a year, said to be the average annual health and social service spending per Canadian. If the costs of caring for a person’s condition were higher than this, the applicant and all family members were denied permanent residency. 

Where to begin?

Let's start with the $6,655.00 figure - the supposed average annual health and social service spending per Canadian in 2017. 

A Global investigation revealed the figures used by Immigration Canada to determine “excessive demand” and the denial of permanent residency does not accurately reflect the cost of providing health and social services in the country. Global’s reporting found the government doesn’t accurately account for up to $40-billion in annual social service spending – or roughly $1,105 a year per Canadian. This means the $6,655 limit used to deny applicants should be at least $7,404 if all social service spending is accounted for accurately.

Sadly, Immigration officials made other errors when assessing this family’s application, such as failing to  take into account their contribution to the local economy and unfounded claims about excessive costs on the local school. The family had come to Canada through the Provincial Nominee Program, meaning the Province had already recognized the beneficial investment they were bringing due to their business acumen, business plan and business experience.

Even the local School Division Superintendent recognized that, due to the fact that (as in most, if not all Provinces) special education is funded on a “block” basis, the Division's overall budget wouldn't change as a result of admitting Karalynn.

 "QUITE SIMPLY, THIS CHILD IS IN OUR SCHOOL DIVISION AND SO THEREFORE WE EDUCATE THIS STUDENT REGARDLESS OF ANY NEEDS ETC. IT'S OUR JOB," HE SAID. "WHETHER THIS STUDENT IS HERE OR SOMEPLACE ELSE THAT WON'T CHANGE OUR FUNDING."

The legal definition of ‘excessive demand’ is very broad in that both physical and mental conditions and disabilities make a person potentially inadmissible even if the treatment cost is only slightly higher than that for the average Canadian. 

To add insult to injury, as noted above, this exclusion can be applied to family members who don't have a medical condition. Thus, if a principal applicant applying for economic-class immigration has an accompanying dependent found medically inadmissible, that principal applicant is also inadmissible. 

Looking for an example a little closer to home? Even worse??

The Chapman family (who have a nine-year-old daughter with a disability) had been accepted in the Nova Scotia nominee program for immigration to Canada. They initially came here as visitors/tourists and were aware that they would have to leave continue their application for immigration from outside the country. 

However because of their daughter, they were first told they could not enter the Canada and then told they could only stay for a limited time period. Their British passports were seized and after about 30 days of being in Canada they were ordered to leave and return to the UK—all because their child had a disability. Canada Border Services actually told the family that their daughter had a "lifetime ban" on entering Canada because of her disability.

Is our government seriously applying the excessive demand clause to individuals coming to Canada as visitor?

If visitors to Canada who have a disability can be denied, this brings new meaning to discrimination on the basis of disability. Most visitors carry health insurance and if they require medical services, their health insurance covers the costs. 

Although Prime Minister Trudeau  promised a nation open to everyone, a welcoming country where “diversity is our strength” and we aspire to build a more “inclusive society”, little to nothing has been done when it came to honouring those commitments with respect to persons with disabilities. Instead, such policies  unfairly target persons with disabilities. 

Until now, that is. 

On March 16, 2021, Canada announced its intention to make a 2018 pilot into permanent policy and relax restrictions on certain foreign nationals with disabilities from becoming permanent residents. The pilot project changed the definition of "excessive demand" to three times the average cost of health and social services to a Canadian and removed some of the calculations for determining ‘excessive demand,’ including several social services for people with disabilities. 

Both provinces and territories have indicated they find the change a reasonable balance. Incidentally, it has also saved Immigration Canada considerable time and money as it no longer needs to evaluate these factors, often a highly complex and costly endeavour. 

The public has 30 days from the date the proposal was published in the Gazette to offer comments before it is finalized. Individuals who so desire can submit commentary on the proposed regulatory change until April 15 by emailing IRCC.MHBDGO-BDGDGMS.IRCC@cic.gc.ca.

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