Immigration and Disability

May 26, 2010


Hon. Jason Kenney
Minister of Immigration
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Mr. Minister:

CCD wrote to you in February regarding the Barlagne family and our concern that because they have a child with disability they will be denied permanent residence in Canada. Recently the Federal Court ruled against a judicial review of the family’s residency application.

The family moved to Montreal five years ago with their daughter Rachel, who has cerebral palsy. The judge in this case stated “Cases like this are always difficult to deal with, particularly when they involve a young girl who is intelligent and endearing, if not exceptional, according to those who know her.” Canada’s immigration law in dealing with persons with disabilities looks simply at their deficits or the potential “excessive demand” they may place upon society. This is an outmoded, negative and stereotypical concept of disability. People with disabilities make considerable contributions to our society. Would Canada allow Stephen Hawking to immigrate if he chose to do so, or would we deny the world renowned physicist? Or if Rick Hansen were not a Canadian citizen would we deny him if he was seeking to immigrate? Would Hon. Steven Fletcher be denied if he were an applicant for Canadian citizenship?

Canada’s Immigration Act and the excessive demand clause should be revised. We do not apply the excessive demand clause to refugees nor to those coming to Canada through family reunification. Yet we deny families seeking to immigrate to Canada to work and create jobs because they have a child with disability or because they themselves have a disability. Canada’s Human Rights Act and the Charter prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability, race, religion, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Interestingly, throughout Canadian immigration history people were not allowed to immigrate to Canada because of religious belief, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and gender. Over the years, Canadian immigration policy has changed and no longer are members of the above groups denied permission to immigrate, with the exception of one group, people with disabilities. It is time to change the policy.

CCD urges you to undertake a review of the excessive demand clause of the Immigration Act. Canadians with disabilities are insulted by Canada’s immigration law. Our current law belittles our contributions and reinforces the old stereotypes that people with disabilities will be a drain upon our society, not contributors to it.

CCD also urges you to extend a Ministerial permit to the Barlagne family on humanitarian grounds. CCD also requests an opportunity to meet with you about our concerns with the Immigration Act. We are hearing almost weekly about individuals and families who are being denied on the basis of disability. This negative understanding of disability is not acceptable in Canada today.


Marie White
National Chairperson

Cc: Michael Savage MP
Tony Martin MP