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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!