Canada revises controversial medical inadmissibility rules for immigrants

Stephen Smith
Published: April 16, 2018

The Government of Canada has announced major changes to its controversial medical inadmissibility rules for immigration candidates that are expected to reduce the number of refusals significantly.

The changes stop short of a recommendation by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to abolish Section 38-1(C) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which bars anyone who “might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services.”

While agreeing with the call to repeal the policy and saying it will take steps to do so at a later date, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has for now tripled the threshold for what’s considered an excessive demand.

In 2017, the cost threshold for a demand to be considered excessive was $6,655 per year, or $33,275 over five years. Based on those figures, the cost threshold would now be $19,965 per year.

IRCC said the change, which takes effect June 1, will effectively "dispense with the majority of medical inadmissibility cases seen in Canada today."

Furthermore, IRCC says it is amending the definition of social services by removing references to special education, social and vocational rehabilitation services and personal support services. These amendments would benefit applicants with visual and hearing impairments, among others.

According to IRCC, approximately 1,000 applicants for permanent or temporary residence are ruled inadmissible for medical reasons each year, or 0.2 per cent of all applicants who undergo medical screening. The savings from this ruling amounted to 0.1 per cent of all publicly funded health spending in Canada.

Old rules 'out of step' with Canadian values

In a news release, IRCC said the old criteria were “out of step with a 21st century approach to persons with disabilities.”

“Most of those affected are individuals who would otherwise be approved in the economic immigration class, and selected for the benefit their skills will bring to the Canadian economy,” the news release said.

“Amending the definition of social services will bring the policy in line with Canadian values on supporting the participation of persons with disabilities in society, while continuing to protect publicly funded health and social services.”

Critics of the old policy had said it was at odds with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Canada ratified in 2010.

Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the revisions bring the policy more in line with that pledge.

“The changes we are announcing today are a major step toward ensuring our immigration system is more inclusive of persons with disabilities, and reflects the values of Canadians,” Hussen said in a statement.

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