Immigration and People with Disabilities

Over twenty-five years ago CCD began advocating for a more open Canadian immigration policy for persons with disabilities. In the 1984 federal election campaign CCD raised this issue in our Challenge Ballot. We asked all candidates to support "Canada making a commitment to the United Nations to accept 50 or more disabled refugees per year." CCD also raised amendment of the Immigration Act to bring it in line with the Charter and ensure that disability was a prohibited ground of discrimination.

CCD, along with the now defunct Canadian Disability Rights Council, advocated for reform of the Immigration Act in 1991 through Omnibus legislation. At that time the Immigration Act required that applicants for permanent resident status undergo a medical examination to determine if they were suffering from any disease, disorder, disability or other health impairment by virtue of which "they are likely to be a danger to public health or public safety" or whose admission "would or might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demands on health or social services." This advocacy work resulted in removing the specific reference to disability but the "excessive demand" clause was retained.

In 2000 the Department of Citizenship and Immigration exempted Convention refugees and their dependents from the excessive demand clause. They stated "it is inconsistent for Canada to accept that a Convention refugee overseas is in need of protection but treat them as inadmissible because they would cause excessive demands on health services." The Department at the time also stated that "the financial impact on the provinces and territories from these excessive demand exemptions is expected to be relatively small."

CCD believes the Immigration Act, both as law and in its practice, continues to discriminate against persons with disabilities and does not meet the equality guarantees of the Charter.

CCD believes the Immigration Act perpetuates long held stereotypical views of persons with disabilities as being less deserving and a burden on society.

CCD believes that the current law devalues Canadians with disabilities and does nothing to recognize the contribution persons with disabilities and their families can and do make to Canadian society.

CCD calls upon the Government of Canada to undertake a review of the "excessive demand" clause. This review should once again consider whether this clause is discriminatory both in its policy and/or its practice.