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  • Amir Akhtar

Government action on rule that rejects immigrants on medical grounds expected in April

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, says his department’s action plan for addressing a controversial policy that refuses immigrants deemed likely to cause an “excessive demand” on the country’s health-care system will be released in April.

Parliament’s Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration has recommended abolishing the “excessive demand” rules in Section 38 1(C) of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which it says is at odds with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

That recommendation was part of a standing committee report on medical inadmissibility rules for immigrants that was tabled on December 12. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada had 120 days to issue its response.

In an appearance before that committee yesterday, Hussen reiterated his belief that the rules need to change.

“I have been very clear that this policy is out of step with Canadian values on accommodating people with disabilities,” Hussen said.

The minister promised that his department will respond to the committee’s recommendations by April 12.

Delay criticized

That answer didn’t satisfy committee member Jenny Kwan, who asked Hussen why it’s taking Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) so long to take action.

“The minister has been studying this issue since 2016, people’s lives are on hold because of that,” Kwan said.

To emphasize her point, Kwan cited recent examples of permanent residence applications that had been turned down because of the rule and said there are about 1,000 such cases across Canada.

“Why can’t we have a policy change that will affect the lives of these individuals now,” Kwan asked.

Hussen contended that IRCC has been consulting with Canada’s provinces about the best way to move forward on the contentious clause, which he noted has been in place for 40 years.

“I am the minister who has publicly said that we will change this policy because it is out of step with Canadian values on the inclusion of persons with disabilities and how we do that is equally important because this affects provincial health and social service budgets,” Hussen said. “We have to do it in line with what the provinces are willing to do.”

Under the Canadian Constitution, provincial and territorial governments are generally responsible for delivering health and other social services to their residents.

What is excessive demand?

Under Section 38 1 (C) of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a prospective immigrant can be ruled inadmissible on health grounds if their health condition “might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services.”

Excessive demand is defined as one “for which the anticipated costs would likely exceed average Canadian per capita health services and social services” over a five or 10-year period, or which would affect existing wait times for health and social services in Canada.

In 2017, the cost threshold for a demand to be considered excessive was $6,655 per year, or $33,275 over five years.

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