Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

O' Canada: Citizenship and Disability

Some readers may recall I wrote about the Chapman family in the summer of 2008. Briefly, the Chapman family was denied entry into Canada because they have a child with a disability. I was outraged by this story and it appears the same thing is happening again. This time a French family who were encouraged to move to Montreal by an embassy official in Paris hasve been told they cannot remain in Canada. The reason given is the same one the Chapman's heard: their daughter, who has cerebral palsy, would place an "excessive burden on social services". It is estimated that the child might cost health and social services up to $5,000 a year more than a so called normal child. Essentially what Canadian officials have decided is that any person, adult or child, with a disabling condition is not eligible for citizenship because they are deemed too costly. If you want to take an even harder view, one could argue children with a disability whose parent wants to move to Canada are not fully human and instead are a kind of unwanted property.

David Barlagne and his family are now in a difficult situation. They took a chance and moved to Montreal in 2005. Barlagne told Canadian officials his daughter had cerebral palsy upfront. He was assured that if his business was successful he would not encounter any problems becoming citizen. Five years later Barlagne is in trouble despite the fact his business is thriving. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has rejected Barlagne's request for permanent residency because his daughter is "medically inadmissible". In a letter to Barlagne Citizenship and Immigration Canada wrote that his daughter suffered from a "global delay" and she "risks giving rise to an excessive burden on social health services". Barlagne is mad and I cannot blame him. He told news reporters that "it's very unfair. What I find particularly unjust is that a representative of the government of Canada told me 'Come to Canada, no problem' yet after arriving in Quebec and contributing to society here, we can't stay anymore." Sadly, there is not much Barlagne can do. He is seeking a judicial review in Federal Court of Immigration Canada's decision. If he wins another Immigration Canada adjudicator would review the case. If he loses he and his family must leave Canada immediately.

There is no doubt in my mind Barlagne was mislead, perhaps mistakenly, and is in deep trouble. Based on how the Chapman's were treated in 2008 I think he and his family have no chance to stay in Canada. The Canadian press has been neutral in the reports I have seen. Some have been supportive of immigration officials. For instance, Jacqueline Ruby, an Immigration Canada spokesperson noted that such cases "are difficult for our department and are heartbreaking to our staff". Oh, spare the false pity. What is heartbreaking is a family that tore up its roots and moved to a different country. In addition through hard work and determination during a time of financial chaos a family man started a successful business only to be told sorry your crippled daughter is a costly burden on Canadian society. Of course Immigration Canada views the situation differently: "In general Canada is hoping that more skilled workers, investors, entrepreneurs, and other individuals will immigrate to Canada. Nonetheless, it is also the goal of Citizenship and Immigration Canada to maintain an appropriate balance between welcoming new members into Canadian society while protecting our publicly funded health and social services".

What a great country Canada is! It is protecting itself rather than discriminating against a class of people. That class of people are all those with a disability. Now I know where I rate. I am an "expensive burden on social services". I bet Canadian officials will be more than willing to take my tourism dollars if I care to visit but I am not worthy of citizenship. Immigration officials have made this abundantly clear with the Chapman's and now have reinforced that position with the Barlagne's. I also suspect that the Chapman's and the Barlagne's are far from unique. How many families I wonder do not fight back and make their stories public? Immigration Canada's position is truly outrageous and highly bigoted. A class of people have been deemed unfit for citizenship and I am a member of this group. So the next time someone tells me the disability rights battle has been won I will point out that in Canada I am welcome to visit but in reality an excessive burden on social services and as such not eligible for citizenship. Yikes, and I thought we had problems in the USA!

34 comments:

emma said...

"In general Canada is hoping that more skilled workers, investors, entrepreneurs, and other individuals will immigrate to Canada.

Hm, so what do they do if a skilled worker, investor or entrepeneur with a disability wants to immigrate to Canada?

william Peace said...

Emma, Such individuals are deemed unfit for citizenship. They don't get past the border. Of course if the same person wanted to visit Canada and spend their tourism dollars they would be welcome. The Canadian immigration position is not all that unusual. Similar cases have been reported in Australia.

Claire said...

Actually, we also kicked out a bunch of hard working, settled, non-disabled Portuguese tradesmen a few years back too...Don't take it too personally, they're killing off retarded babies at Sick Kids...so nationality doesn't really matter...

william Peace said...

Claire, I was hoping you would comment on this. You are right and wrong on nationality. Nationality is important as it is a variable in how we shape the cultural construction of disability. Unfortunately most nations, Canada and America for instance, have an overwhelmingly negative response to disability. Thus this case is no surprise but it sure does make me mad! I will protest by not visiting Canada any time soon even though I would love to see the hockey hall of fame!

Claire said...

In all seriousness, I had no idea that this policy existed until you mentioned it some posts ago. I know that one of my blog followers is struggling with this issue right now. Canadian immigration policies have a long and chequered history. White Europeans have always had an edge..of course Jews and Germans suffered considerably during the war years...Japanese were "interned" here as well. The doors are more wide open than in many countries, however, and what many face now are bureaucrats with hard-ass attitudes toward the rules.

As for disability, there's more than one way to skin a cat...someone asked me this morning on a comment about whether I was staying in Canada...my response: I can't go to the states because I can't afford medical care for a child like mine. The effect is the same...no? Undesirables are kept out.

Terri said...

This is so upsetting. Bigotry just isn't pretty, here or there.

And how do they predict who will be a burden to their criminal justice system since most are not handily diagnosed? Or who will acquire a disability? Perhaps as they age? (Nearly everyone.)Do they revoke citizenship in these circumstances?

And a hardworking family must leave immediately? Because disability is a crime? Or contagious?

And you're right of course, my family has vacationed in Canada every summer for more than 20 years... and they have never complained about my daughter.

william Peace said...

Claire, All countries have a checkered past when it comes to immigration. But Canada's policy in terms of disability is nothing more and nothing less than discrimination against a specific class of people.
I have no idea how a person could afford the health care costs associated with severe disability even if they had insurance. I have no doubt you could not afford to live in the USA for this reason. Ian Pearl who I wrote about is a perfect example.
Terri, You make many good points. I am no expert on immigration law but I got the sense the family would be asked to leave immediately if their appeal fails. The appeal I suspect is put in place as it gives time for families to get their affairs in order before they are deported. I cannot envision a ruling in their favor. Precedent is against them as is the political machine known as immigration.

FridaWrites said...

My husband had some calls about a Canadian job and I had told him to go for it. I have no doubt we'd be rejected at the border now unless I limped through (difficult after a plane journey but possible) and shipped the scooter separately. But not a good idea as we'd run into the same thing. Jeez. "Disableds keep out": the message is clear. Or should it be undesirables?

Claire said...

Here's the actual law:http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/manuals/bulletins/2008/ob063.asp...like you all have time to read it!! There are some mitigating factors and obviously this has been challenged in court a number of times. The issue is cost upon landed immigrant status. The rationale is that people come here to use the medical system with no intention of long term contribution to the country. This has been done...I know of cases where folks brought in their elderly parents and so on and use the system while they have immigrant status, before they are citizens. In the past, landed immigrants could take advantage of all the medical services available to Canadian citizens...and never become citizens...or leave when all was well and good with them. This is why there is this disability issue now. Of course, the law is rigidly applied...but can be challenged in a court of law. Naturally, those with money win in the end.

william Peace said...

Frida, Rest assured you will never become a Canadian citizen. You and I are considered undesirable, a drain on limited health care resources. In America we are far more humane. We have health insurance companies that consider us "dogs" and they simply do not insure us or discontinue existing policies when we file too many claims. Excuse the sarcasm.

william Peace said...

Claire, Ugh for some reason the link is not working. People never cease to amaze me. I am sure the sort of abuses you mention are not uncommon but the response makes no sense. Should we get rid of all handicapped parking because so many violate the places with fraudulent placards? Of course health care is far more expensive but there must be some room for debate.

Claire said...

Bill...exactly! It's called "bureaucrats".

william Peace said...

Claire, Ugh, yes bureaucrats exist and frankly they are needed. But you know me and my penchant for seeing the subtle aspects of life and disability. Surely there must be a way for Canadian immigration officials to finesse the situation or at least seek to redefine the rules and regulations. The father has stated he will pay for any care his daughter may require--he wants to remain in the country since his business is doing so well. I have never understood such rigidity and adherence to rules without thought. Rules and records are made to be broken at some point.

Matthew Smith said...

I was unaware that Canada had the same issues with disabled potential immigrants as Australia -- their policy has been well-known for decades: if you have a dependant who is either disabled or chronically ill, you can't immigrate, full stop; it doesn't matter how skilled you are. (You can sort of understand this in Australia given their chronic water shortages, encroaching desert and skin cancer problems, but Canada has no such excuses.)

I don't see the point of these restrictions. After all, if disabled people can move to Australia or Canada from the UK, they can also move the other way, so no country is getting "burdened" with a disproportionate share of another country's disabled. The EU isn't breaking down because of any cross-border disability problem (as opposed to chronic bureaucracy and the instability of the Euro, for example). It also ignores the value these people bring to the country in terms of what they might contribute to a business or the country's culture. A disabled person is also inherently much less likely to prove to be a violent criminal (we have a substantial problem with those here in the UK, and the disabled feature heavily among the victims but somewhat rarely among the perpetrators). How much will a person with CP cost a country anyway? It's not degenerative, it doesn't have the same complications as spinal cord injuries (dysreflexia, kidney trouble etc), so why are they worried about cost? Anyway, what if an immigrant gets hurt in Canada and ends up with a SCI? It costs the same whether the crash, diving accident or whatever took place in Montreal or Marseille.

This is more than just a disability issue; there is simply no reason why there cannot be freedom of movement and settlement between all the old Commonwealth countries (the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and possibly Ireland; they are all at similar stages of development and have roughly similar political and social cultures. Australians, and even English South Africans, commonly come 'back' to the UK as they are able to because of British ancestry. This is also true of disabled people from those countries. They also commonly dump on us criminals who migrated from the UK to those places with their parents as children and then went astray there.

This lady, a Canadian, blind, C6-complete quad, is in the process of migrating from Canada to the UK (she's in the UK now, but has to go back to Canada to sort her spousal visa out). She's been told her disability isn't a problem as long as she is able to take care of it (which she is). Assuming the people she's spoken to haven't misinformed her like those Canadian officials in Paris, I'm glad to say that we wouldn't turn away a decent person just because of her disability.

Matthew Smith said...

By the way, the USA does take immigrants who have disabilities. I know this because someone I once knew -- a man of Sudanese origin who was blind from retinitis pigmentosa (a hereditary condition which causes progressive sight loss) -- married and settled in America. Not sure about other disabilities.

Claire said...

"After an extensive review of the legislative history, the SCC also concluded that there was a legislative intention to shift away from an approach based on categorical exclusion, to one calling for more individualized assessments; thereby rejecting medical admissibility decisions based on condition alone (the “cookie-cutter” approach). In assessing whether an applicant’s health might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services, medical officers must determine both the nature, severity and duration of an applicant’s disability or impairment and the applicant’s likely requirement for, and entitlement to, publicly funded health or social services. They must subsequently evaluate the demand for those services. (This remains the requirement for all classes of potential immigrants, but for a few exceptions, such as refugees, protected persons and some family members.)

Canada can design its immigration policy in a way that reduces exposure to undue burdens caused by potential immigrants. Since the notion of “excess demands” was first introduced in the Immigration Act, 1976, it has not been possible to base findings of medical inadmissibility on the mere existence of a medical condition. As per the Supreme Court in Hilewitz, assessing the potential requirement for services, based on the classification of the impairment, results ina generic rather than an individual assessment of the application. The relevant provisions of both the former Immigration Act and IRPA require that an individualized assessment be performed."

lilacsigil said...

(You can sort of understand this in Australia given their chronic water shortages, encroaching desert and skin cancer problems, but Canada has no such excuses.)

Because of course able-bodied immigrants are not affected by any of these things! In the last year, this discrimination has finally been coming to public attention, mostly because of medical staff internationally recruited to work in rural areas like mine and then suddenly told they can't stay. A doctor in my area (his son is disabled) was allowed to stay, but only after major public protest, and there was no actual policy change.

awesomenorms said...

My family is experiencing this right now. My husband is already working there for two years as a skilled worker and he applied for permanent residency under provincial nominee category. Our eldest child has cerebral palsy and after they let us pay the right of landing fee, a letter came saying that our eldest child (Gabriel) can cause excessive demand on their social services system. They want us to report our financial situation. Our financial situation should assure them that we can cover Gabriel's medical expenses and that we will not rely on Canadian government. Sadly, my husband's salary is not that big. But, relatives and friends want to give their support to our eldest child. They are offering help somewhat financially so that at least we can handle the expenses. Sadly, we are thinking that they have their own lives to live too and their own expenses. So, we really would not and cannot rely on that. Some people giving us advice told us that it's best if Gabriel will be left behind. They said that we have to think of the future of our other three children, that we can provide Gabriel's needs better if we go and Gabriel stays. This is really a heart wrenching and heart breaking situation for us. We are not even sure that they will approve our residency even if Gabriel is left behind. Right now, everything is not making sense and it's really hard to decide.

william Peace said...

Claire, Thanks so much for the quote and information. I am surprised as there is far more wiggle room within the immigration rules than I thought possible. But these rules are interpreted by people who have their own bias and institutional pressures placed upon them. Again, I am no expert but I would think money is a major variable. If a person has a needed skill or is quite wealthy they are more likely to be able to immigrate. Yikes, this sounds jaded!

Matthew, With proper care people with SCI need not experience any problems with their kidneys or suffer from such complications that were once routine. The issue is can a person with SCI afford to access the health care system.

Awesomenorms, I wish you and your family well. I have not had to deal with immigration for a very long time. Even when I did (I lived in London for a while) I could see trouble could arise from which a solution would almost impossible to reach. What you are experiencing must indeed be heart wrenching. I wish I could do something more than wish you well.

zigspective said...

What really happened here was a family getting screwed over by an inept agent.

What should have happened:

David should have applied for permanent residency before he even entered the country under the Canadian business class program. Being accepted he would have then turned around and sponsored his wife and two daughters under the family class program. Provided David could prove that he had enough money to support the three of them they would then be allowed to enter the country without any further difficulties. Those under the family class CANNOT be denied for putting an "excessive" burden on society.

Meaning that yes many people with disabilities can become permanent residents and citizens of Canada and do. If they had gone about the proper channels they would not have had a problem.

Because they are in Canada applying for permanent residency (which is frowned upon in the first place, again they obviously received very poor advice) they are all being looked at as though they were separate applicants rather than a family unit. So as far as the paperwork is concerned there is a girl with Cerebral Palsy who has special education needs but no financial support. Unfortunately when going through the immigration process agents do not have the ability to consider things on a case by case basis. The first round is literally a mathematical equation point system.

william Peace said...

Zig, I cannot dispute what you wrote. I just don't know enough about Canadian immigration. My sense is that the family did indeed get bad advice. But surely you would agree the manner in which they are being treated is not fair and highly prejudicial. A good immigration agent should be able to figure out a way to get the family through the bureaucratic maze.

zigspective said...

Was it fair? Definitely not, they were misled either by ignorance or by purpose.

Was it highly prejudicial? I feel that is multi-level. Is it possible that the agent who do not provide them with the best chances to enter successfully was doing it maliciously? I suppose that is a possibility.

Is the system highly prejudicial? Yes and no. They view it as an economy booster, so when we talk about people trying emigrate to Canada they want you to put a lot more money in than you take out. So it is prejudicial about those who are considered "special needs", also against the very young, those over 64 and stay at home moms.

They realized of course that really wasn't going to work if they wanted people to stay permanently. Which is why they have "Family Class" to override the inherent "unfairness". The bars to being admitted in the "Family Class" are very low. As long as you can show you have the finances needed and you are not a criminal you can bring your family over. Family you are bringing over don't have to prove much at all either.

To that point when it comes to "disability" they actually give concessions to parents. Generally you cannot sponsor a child over 21 but if they are older than than and they are financially dependent on you because of the costs of their care they can still enter through the Family Class.

Now I will back up a bit. If you are applying as a worker or as a business applicant I stated that the system will be prejudice, and it will against many. But if you can prove that you will not be costing health care or social services a lot of money, a disability itself is not enough to prevent you from coming in. An example: A man with cerebral palsy had his application go through without a hitch because he could prove A) that he had been employed for the past 10 years without any large leaves of absence B) He had already taken care of a major medical cost, in this case he had already had a recommended back surgery to alleviate pain and discomfort, which led to C) His condition was under control, stable and he had a plan for the future.

You could phrase this as keep out the "undesirables" but in this case the undesirable are those who can't sufficiently pay their way, this just happens to affect a high number who have ongoing medical issues.

Elizabeth McClung said...

So if they were citizen, what is happening to them would be illegal as Canadian Human Right Act includes disability in the equality section. However, in PRACTICE, that just isn't the case. Federal agenies are supposed to create hiring plans to meet quotas for four groups: women, native peoples, immigrants and those with disabilities (screw the gays!). The problem is that the most widespread federal agencies have openly abandoned such employment plans - after 3 years to make a 200 page document on recruitment, the RCMP decided to end the youth native people's camps and programs and currently, has TWO people with disabilities working in a law or non law (analyist, dispatch, etc) capacity, even the civilian arm of the RCMP is included. The armed forces, and many other national agencies (well, that would including immigration wouldn't it? How many have they recruit this year? How about they solve the problem by hiring his daughter? Naw, better to openly discriminate and then say 'not my inch' or 'our hands are tied' - it is more the Canadian way).

I wish to apologize for my country. When I left Canada was a country with the types of entrenched 'protective gate' policy. Many of my colleagues immigrated to Canada while in the UK, some with disabilities.

We already know there is no equality in health care as promised, yet it seems more important to keep the facade of this hypocracy by evicting people publically - no different than deporting 200 illegal immigrants including doctors, nurses lawyers as the UK did, the same month it gave 16,000 visas to nurses doctors and lawyers from various countries to help the sagging NHS.

The worse part: Canada is often the gateway entry for people with HIV/AIDS since the US won't even allow people with AIDS to enter, lest them falling over in the street causes a crash on the health care system. We, Canada, are a smug self satisfied middle class country which has no passion in ensuring the equality and security we are always in the front of the UN, urging other nations to follow our example (after they buy one of our nuclear reactors).

william Peace said...

Elizabeth, Thanks for your long thoughtful reply. No need to apologize for an entire nation. I know many things the USA has done warrant an apology too but citizens cannot be blamed for decisions made by the government and its leaders.
You make a great point at the onset--if they were citizens what is being done would be illegal. This is a devastating critique. I must also agree with you that there is no equality when it comes to health care. The bias Canadians and Americans encounter is different but still ever present. I would like to think the situation in Canada is not as bad as in the USA. Here without a full time job and employee based health care one is in deep trouble. I know many people who work not for a salary per se but for the health insurance a corporation provides. Employers know this and do not pay a living wage. What a screwed up system and worse yet is the so called health care debate has ignored the voices of people with a disability even though they have the most experience with the system. Frustrating in the extreme.

Matthew Smith said...

I posted a longer article on this situation here.

Penny L. Richards said...

Some historical background on Canada's immigration policies towards disabled children:

http://disstud.blogspot.com/2007/04/in-memory-of-george-everitt-green-1880.html

Families have taken this issue to court in recent years, and some have won their cases. The cases to look up are Hilewitz v. Canada (Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration), deJong v. Canada (same), Lee v. Canada (same), Harkar v. Canada (same)... there are quite a number, all hinging on different technical details of the application process and the specific family's actual resources.

william Peace said...

Penny, Thanks very much for the links and case studies. I surely hope they are successful in their appeal.

Viji Sundaram said...

My family is going through this situation. Myself and my twin sister immigrated to Canada in 2001, now Canadian citizens.We work in the hi tech industry. We have an older sister who is mildy retarded. We applied to sponsor our dad and sister in 2002. Because of our sister's disability, the immigration department does not want them to immigrate to Canada. Inspite of showing a family wealth of CDN$1M and combined family annual income worth CDN$300,000, we received a letter that the visa officer wants to reject first based on medical inadmissibility then financial inadmissibility, but they would like us to provide additional information to prove otherwise. However, they have so far not sent us a final rejection notice. That is done intentionally, as they are hoping that if it is stretched long enough, hoping that the principal applicant may die and the application will become null and void. It has been 8 years and our life is in a limbo state. We are at a loss as to how to proceed.

If anyone has any ideas on how to proceed, i would appreciate it.

Mike said...

Sometimes, it's really sad to know the limitations of disabled people. But all of us are equal, and we have our own unique skills. If one wants to be an entrepreneur, the why not. He can really be if he wants to. I'm happy with the Canadians because they prefer to stay here in our own country to work than to go to other countries and migrate there. Whether we are disabled or not, we can handle our finances well.

And with regards to your concern, you may seek help from estate lawyers. Ottawa has a lot of those lawyers who will provide you information and answers to your concerns.

FetishDagger said...

I am married to a canadian who is disabled, I am also disabled and a u.s. citizen. I am worried they will not let him immigrate. Terrified in fact. any suggestions? Canada has become unsafe for him, family issues caused him a nervous breakdown. he is now visiting u.s. legally with no restrictions to obtain therapy. I'm very scared they will tear him from me. And he would not do well, if survive at all, if they did so.

gareth batty said...


Hence, at this juncture, having a qualified and specialized disability attorney can provide you representation and an advantage of reassurance to turnaround things effectively in your favor. Experienced Disability lawyers are well-versed with every intricate legal bylines regarding the disability claim program. They will analyze the circumstances of the case thoroughly and accordingly chalk out defense strategy in the interest of the claimant (applicant).

thanks a lot for sharing
http://www.leckerdisabilitylawyers.ca

william Peace said...

May 2013. Yes, many thing have changed in Canada in terms of immigration for people with a disability. I hope such a family would have a radically different experience today.

Erminia Cavins said...

Thanks for that change! With it, I do believe that many families will experience something a lot better for their lives. Also, I’m hoping that one of these changes is for disability rights.
- ParmeleLawFirm.com

william Peace said...

Ermina, I really should update this post. Much has changed. I do worry though about immigration issues for families with a disabled child. I simply do not know enough about Canadian law to comment about their experience.