Re­stric­tions to lighten on dis­abled im­mi­grants

Ottawa Citizen - - CANADA - TERESA WRIGHT

OT­TAWA • Af­ter four decades, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is get­ting rid of rules that turned away would-be im­mi­grants with in­tel­lec­tual or phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties, Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen said Mon­day.

The gov­ern­ment will no longer be al­lowed to re­ject per­ma­nent res­i­dent ap­pli­ca­tions from those with se­ri­ous health con­di­tions or dis­abil­i­ties.

Most of those im­pacted by the pol­icy have been eco­nomic im­mi­grants al­ready work­ing and cre­at­ing jobs in Canada, but whose chil­dren or spouses may have a dis­abil­ity, Hussen said.

“The cur­rent pro­vi­sions on med­i­cal in­ad­mis­si­bil­ity are over 40 years old and are clearly not in line with Cana­dian val­ues or our gov­ern­ment’s vi­sion of in­clu­sion.”

He cited the case of a tenured pro­fes­sor at York Univer­sity who was de­nied per­ma­nent res­i­dence be­cause his son had Down syn­drome, and an­other case of a fam­ily that came to Canada and started a busi­ness, but were re­jected be­cause of a child with epilepsy.

“These new­com­ers can con­trib­ute and are not a bur­den to Canada,” the min­is­ter said. “These new­com­ers have the abil­ity to help grow our econ­omy and en­rich our so­cial fab­ric.”

The changes will amend the def­i­ni­tion of so­cial ser­vices by re­mov­ing ref­er­ences to spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion, so­cial and vo­ca­tional re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices and per­sonal sup­port ser­vices. Ot­tawa is also tripling the cost thresh­old at which an ap­pli­ca­tion for per­ma­nent res­i­dency can be de­nied on med­i­cal grounds.

That will al­low im­mi­grants with mi­nor health con­di­tions that have rel­a­tively low health and so­cial ser­vices costs to be ap­proved for per­ma­nent res­i­dency.

Of the 177,000 eco­nomic im­mi­grants ad­mit­ted to Canada ev­ery year, about 1,000 are af­fected by the med­i­cal in­ad­mis­si­bil­ity pol­icy. The changes are ex­pected to dis­pense with most of those cases. There have been calls to re­peal the pol­icy en­tirely, in­clud­ing from the Com­mons cit­i­zen­ship and im­mi­gra­tion com­mit­tee, which stud­ied the is­sue last year.

Lib­eral MP and com­mit­tee chair Rob Oliphant said he had hoped gov­ern­ment would an­nounce a full re­peal. But more work must be done to de­ter­mine the full cost im­pli­ca­tions to the prov­inces, he said.

“We at com­mit­tee could not get good cost data,” Oliphant said. “Right now (Hussen) is go­ing to have to look at this, the min­is­ter of health will have to look at this, the prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries are go­ing to have to look at this and hope­fully in a year or two they are go­ing to rec­og­nize that this is not a sig­nif­i­cant cost.”

But Con­ser­va­tive im­mi­gra­tion critic Michelle Rem­pel says she be­lieves the costs could in­deed be high. She was crit­i­cal of gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to move ahead with changes be­fore any con­crete data has been de­vel­oped to de­ter­mine the costs to the prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries.

“My con­cern is that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is down­load­ing costs to the prov­inces with­out a real plan to deal with that and that seems like some­thing they should have done and con­sid­ered be­fore they made this an­nounce­ment.”

Hussen said Ot­tawa will pay the costs of the changes an­nounced Mon­day, but re­mained un­clear about whether that would mean ad­di­tional money in health or so­cial ser­vices trans­fers.

James Hicks, na­tional di­rec­tor of the Cana­dian Coun­cil of Cana­di­ans with Dis­abil­i­ties (CCD), called the changes mere “tweaks.” His or­ga­ni­za­tion wanted a full re­peal of the med­i­cal in­ad­mis­si­bil­ity pro­vi­sions.

Ahmed Hussen

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