Liberals loosen rules that exclude immigrants on medical grounds
The Liberal government is loosening the medical inadmissibility rules for immigrants, but is not yet eliminating the policy that many have called discriminatory.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the policy, which has been in place for more than 40 years, is “way out of date,” and not in line with Canadian values or government policies of inclusion.
Under the revised policy, newcomers won’t be denied permanent residency if they or any of their children have developmental delays, special education requirements, or a hearing or visual impairment. The anticipated health-care cost threshold will also be increased to about $20,000 a year — about three times the previous threshold.
Determinations are currently based on whether anticipated costs are expected to exceed the average Canadian per-capita health or social services costs over a five-year period, or if they could add to an existing wait list that might delay care for Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
Hussen estimates the new rules will allow entry to about 75 per cent of the approximately 1,000 people who were previously rejected on medical grounds for “excessive demand.” More consultation and study will be undertaken with the goal of eventually eliminating the medical inadmissibility policy entirely, he said.
The immigration minister could not say if the provinces and territories would be compensated for potential extra costs, but said the impact will be studied.
“We’re not going for full repeal, precisely because we want to continue the consultations. We heard it very loud and clear from the citizenship and immigration committee that this policy is ripe for change,” he said.
When the committee studied the issue last fall, Hussen said the government was committed to ditching the policy, but that the government must proceed with caution, because any change could affect provincial health-care and social service budgets. The Liberal-dominated committee recommended ending the policy.
Asked if the government is perpetuating a discriminatory policy, Hussen said the changes will bring it “closer in line” to Canadian values, while bringing the provinces and territories, which pay for publicly-funded health and social services, on board.
There have been many high-profile cases reported in the media, including a professor at Toronto’s York University whose application for permanent residency was turned down because his son has Down syndrome.
According to the rules around medical inadmissibility, a willingness or ability to pay is not a factor for publicly funded services like physician or hospital care since there is no cost-recovery regime in place.
However, it is a consideration in assessing an applicant who has financial means to defray costs of medication or services that are not publicly funded, such as HIV antiretroviral therapy.