Canada to Relax 40-Year-Old Policy About Immigrants With Disabilities

Critics and advocates are disappointed that it does not repeal the “excessive medical demand” clause in the policy


To keep in line with the government’s “inclusive agenda,” Canada is set to relax restrictions on immigrant applicants with disabilities and chronic health problems. Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen on April 16 announced that he will update the 40-year-old policy and introduce a new criteria of medical demand for immigration assessment, which will be active from June 1, the Toronto Star reported.

This change to the restrictions, which so far prevented many from immigrating to Canada, was, however, met with disappointment from several quarters. Critics said that the proposed changes fall short, and asked for a full repeal of the “excessive medical demand” clause that will cause people with disabilities to be viewed as liabilities. A parliamentary immigration committee had recommended the full repeal in December last year.

As per the current law, medical demand is excessive if it exceeds the average annual health care costs for a Canadian, which has been capped at $6,655. The changes to this will raise the ceiling of medical inadmissibility to $19,965 –almost three times the previous cap. The changes will also amend the definition of social services by removing references to special education, social and vocational services and personal support services for applicants.

The medical inadmissibility provision “was out of step with the values of Canadians,” Hussen told the Star. “The changes we are announcing today are a major step forward in ensuring our immigration system is more inclusive of persons with disabilities, and reflect the values of Canadians,” he said, adding, “The provision did not adequately account for the contributions made by the entire family just because a family member has a disability.”

These newcomers can contribute and are not a “burden” to Canada, he was quoted as saying by CTV News. “These newcomers have the ability to help grow our economy and enrich our social fabric,” he said.

About 1,000 permanent and temporary resident applicants are found to be medically inadmissible every year on the ground of excessive demand on health care and social services, according to data from the immigration department. They make up for 0.2 per cent of applicants who go through medical screening. The savings to provincial health care due to the medical immigration bar was 0.1 per cent of all publicly funded health spending in Canada in 2015.

However, MP Jenny Kwan, the National Democratic Party’s immigration critic, isn’t too convinced, the newspaper reported. “The new policy ignores the benefits the family unit brings to Canada with the same mindset that people with disabilities are a drain on the society,” she said. “This is still based on a cost-benefit analysis and there is no change to the policy on the benefit side.”

Almost an eighth of immigrants who landed and permanently settled in Canada in the five-year period between 2011 and 2016 were from India, as per 2016 census released by Statistics Canada.

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