Toronto, November 20, 2017 – As the Federal government prepares to host consultations in Ottawa, migrant caregivers and disability justice advocates spoke out in Toronto today calling for an immediate end to disability discrimination in Canada’s immigration law. More than a thousand people and organizations have signed an Open Letter in support of these demands.
The parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is examining Section 38(1)(c) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) today. Section 38(1)(c) reads “A foreign national is inadmissible on health grounds if their health condition is expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services,” in effect denying an entire family permanent status if any member of the family is sick or disabled. This discriminatory system has been in place since 2002, and an average of 1,000 people, and their families are rejected each year.
“We can’t wait any longer, we need an immediate repeal of the discriminatory medical inadmissibility regime, Permanent Residency for all those denied based on this Section in the last ten years, and Permanent Residency upon arrival for all migrant workers” says Caregivers Action Centre member Amalia Loyzaga, mother of three and a recent widow. Ms Loyzaga has been separated from her family for the past ten years because her Permanent Residency is being challenged based solely on her daughter’s autism diagnosis. She is also one of 25,000 Caregivers caught in a backlog.
“I cannot comprehend how inhuman, discriminatory and unjust immigration law is set out for people with disabilities, and why action is still being delayed” adds Loyzaga.
“Section 38 (1)(c) violates basic rights to equality for disabled people, tears apart families, diminishes the invaluable contributions made by disabled people and stigmatizes us,” says prominent disability activist and scholar Dr. Loree Erickson, who has been in Canada for the past 14 years and was recently denied permanent residency.
“I felt like I am dying when I was denied. I don’t know what to do and where to go. I felt so hopeless. I wanted to scream. My family has been waiting for years, and we can’t wait any longer, we need to be reunited now” adds Josarie Danieles. Ms. Danieles is a member of the Caregivers Action Centre and has been publicly calling for overhaul of the medical inadmissibility regime since 2016.
Ms Danieles has been in Canada since 2010, and completed her requirements for permanent residency in 2014. Her permanent residency application is being challenged because her daughter Precious has been deemed to be an ‘excessive burden to the Canadian health system’.
Caregiver Mercedes Benitez, whose case was in the news recently and is scheduled to speak to Parliament later today, was granted Permanent Residency based on Humanitarian and compassionate grounds last week.
“Getting my file approved means that I won the lottery. But although now I’m approved, I wonder, what about those other cases? So many others are still suffering. Excessive demand should be eliminated because there should not be any more mothers who cry every night or children who are being discriminated based on their disability or health condition.”
The denial of permanent resident status based on disability is just one symptom of a system that fails to protect those who come from other countries to care for children, the sick, and the elderly. “For caregivers, the medical inadmissibility rule magnifies the hardships imposed by what is already a two-tier system where some immigrants come with temporary status and limited rights, while others come as permanent residents. There needs to be one system of rights, and full immigration status on arrival” adds Fay Faraday, a labour and human rights lawyer who has worked with migrant workers for over two decades.
Directly affected migrant mothers, disabled people and advocates are also concerned with the lack of truly democratic consultation in Parliament.
“While all of us applied to participate in these so-called public consultations, only one of us was invited to speak, but we are here speaking today, to say we cannot wait, end discrimination now,” adds Loyzaga.
Migrant caregivers and their supporters are calling on the the Federal Government to:
- Immediately grant permanent residency to Josarie Danieles, Amalia Loyzaga and their families, as well as other migrants who have been denied permanent residency on disability grounds over the past ten years.
- Eliminate Section 38(1)(c) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which allows for discriminating against people with disabilities.
- Grant permanent residency status to migrant workers currently in Canada, including undocumented workers, with specific provisions to allow their families to join them.
- Ensure that all migrant workers are allowed to come to Canada with their families, and with permanent residency status, which is the norm for applicants in the Canadian Express Entry system.
- Ensure all migrant workers have access to all public services, basic rights and the ability to change jobs through open work permits.