Disability Advocates Seek Repeal of Discriminatory Clause in Immigration Act

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Receptive to Call for Change, But Details and Plans Remain Unclear

Canadian disability advocates and immigration lawyers recently called on the federal government to repeal a section of Canada’s immigration act they consider discriminatory towards immigrants with disabilities. With advocates speaking out against this discriminatory and outdated “excessive demand” clause in the immigration act, the government is now taking steps to amend it.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration recently held a three-day hearing on Section 38-1C of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The provisions in question bar individuals with disabilities and their families from gaining permanent residency under grounds of “medical inadmissibility” and “excessive demand” on Canadian medical and social services.

Disability advocates with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities urged the federal government to scrap the section in question, arguing that it is unjust and discriminatory.

“Un-Canadian” Approach to Issues

Disability advocates argued that the excessive demand clause is difficult to argue, and mars Canada’s image and is contrary to Canada’s attitudes and values. This approach prevents family reunification and forces long family separations. Also, for a country vying for the world’s top foreign talent, Canada cannot attract this talent if these restrictions are in place.

Skilled foreign workers wishing to immigrate to Canada with family members with disabilities cannot take the position and make the move to Canada. Critics also point out that the benefits of immigration to the economy (especially when attracting top talent) far outweigh the costs of alleged “excessive demand” on the social and healthcare systems.

Another criticism of this flawed provision is that Canada is willing to spend billions of dollars to help those with AIDS around the globe, but when it comes to immigration applicants with AIDS, their treatments might cost too much, so they are deemed ineligible for immigration to Canada.

Potential Changes Coming Soon

Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen also spoke before the Standing Committee, saying that this clause does not represent Canada’s value of inclusiveness in society.

Hussen said he will make changes to this outdated provision, though details remain to be revealed. He may repeal it altogether, exempt specific groups from the policy, or increase the financial threshold used by the government to calculate admissibility.

However, he won’t make a decision until he meets with provincial and territorial governments, since they are responsible for the majority of social and healthcare spending. Canada’s immigration lawyers remain optimistic that the government decision-makers will all agree that the current provision is flawed and must be revised to reflect the fundamental Canadian rights and values.