Feds relax rules for immigrant applicants with disabilities

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This week Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen made a much-anticipated announcement that will be embraced by some and criticized by others. Going forward it will be easier for persons with disabilities and their family members to immigrate to Canada.

Known as “medical inadmissibility” due to excessive demand, for the past 40 years, the law allowed the government to deny people residency in Canada because they or an immediate family member have a disability or medical condition that could place “excessive demand” on publicly-funded health and social service programs. Those often hit were parents of children with disabilities who were denied residency.

The new rules make it clear that certain social service spending won’t be taken into account when deciding the fate of immigrant applicants especially when it comes to special education needs.
Those with autism or Down syndrome and other such afflictions requiring medical and long-term support will be welcome.

Families whose applications have been denied in the past due to special education costs related to a child’s disability will need to reapply if they wish to be considered under the new rules. And many lawyers will be sending out letters to former clients who’ve been rejected to put in their applications.

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Currently one-third of all applicants are denied permanent residency because of excessive demand with the changes, 75 per cent of all cases that were earlier denied would now be accepted
In addition to eliminating special education costs as a barrier to immigration, Hussen announced the government plans to triple the cost threshold used to deny applicants whose medical conditions could result in health-care costs once they arrive in Canada.

Currently that amount is set at $6,655 a year, which the government says averages the per-capita health and social service spending in Canada in 2016, now the new limit for denying residency because of medical costs will be closer to $20,000 a year once the changes are implemented. Hussen said the government plans to move toward the complete elimination of this threshold in the future, pending the outcome of ongoing negotiations with the provinces.

At this point it isn’t clear whether the additional burden will be borne by provincial governments or the federal government, however these seem like minor considerations all things considered.

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Much of the funding for health care spending in Canada already comes from the federal government in the form of health and social service transfers to the provinces and it is clear provinces will insist that any additional costs incurred from the change in the immigration rules should be borne by the federal government that made the changes in the first place.

While the new rules could still see some applicants denied residency due to medical expenses – such as elderly parents with serious health care needs trying to be reunited with their children in Canada, it is likely that any such denials will go in for endless appeals.

Many legal experts have railed against Canada’s immigration rules stating that it discriminated against persons with disabilities and their family members. However, on the other side, it is the taxpayer who is eventually on the hook for all these expenses.

The decision to change the policy also follows a Parliamentary committee report that last December recommended the government repeal Section 38-1-C of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the section of the law that deals with medical inadmissibility due to excessive demand.

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Speaking to a cross-section of South Asians on the issue, people are divided. Those who have family members who benefit from this have a more favorable view to this change, others who worry about our healthcare costs that is increasing wonder if bringing in more sick people will burden an already overburdened healthcare system. At a time when it is taking longer to see specialists and ERs across the country are overflowing, can the system cope?

Is there a plan to build more hospitals and other facilities across the country in the next 20 years keeping in mind our own rising number of seniors who are expected to make more demands on healthcare as they age, leave alone the new immigrants who will also be expecting to receive the same quality and standard of healthcare as those retired taxpayers? – CINEWS

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