A New Democrat MP is demanding the federal government reverse a decision to bar a family from India from emigrating to Canada to join their son in B.C. because their adult daughter has Down Syndrome.
The son, Kevin Patel of Vancouver, wanted to sponsor his parents and sister to come to Canada to become permanent residents.
But Immigration Canada rejected the request because it says his sister’s condition could pose an excessive burden on Canada’s health and social services.
“Are we looking at immigration as a nation-building exercise?” Mr. Patel said at a news conference as he questioned the government’s priorities.
“Or are we looking at immigration as a commercial project where we only bring in young people, only smart people, so that they can fund our economy? Should we treat immigrants as a commodity and not as person or as a family?”
NDP citizenship critic Don Davies said the government’s conclusion is not supported by any facts and is instead based on stereotypes of people with Down Syndrome.
Mr. Davies, who outlined his concerns in a letter to Canadian immigration officials based in India, described the daughter’s condition as “mild Down Syndrome.”
“Your officer has come to the disturbing and baseless decision that, while she would not be an undue burden on Canada’s medical system, the mere fact she has Down Syndrome means she would be an undue burden on Canada’s social security system,” Mr. Davies writes in the letter, issued to the media on Friday.
“This conclusion is not supported by any facts, is contradicted by the evidence submitted in this case and, with all due respect, represents an outdated stereotype of a person with Down Syndrome that is not in keeping with modern understanding of people with this condition. Frankly, it represents a bigoted and discriminatory view that is unacceptable in 2012.”
Mr. Davies said Mr. Patel, whose legal given name is Kaivalya, has been living in North American since 2000. He is currently working as a certified general accountant.
He applied in 2006 to sponsor his mother, father and sister to come to Canada, and that application was granted in 2008, according to Mr. Davies. The family submitted an application for permanent residency in 2009, and have since undergone medical exams and submitted financial information.
“The family has complied with all the requests your office has placed on them and they have also affirmed repeatedly that Aditi (the daughter) does not have any special medical, para-medical or respite care needs,” Mr. Davies writes.
“Aditi has been extremely self-reliant, physically independent and healthy as an individual. On the contrary, Aditi has demonstrated great skill in knitting, candle and incense making as well as outdoor sports, for which her medals and certificates as well as inter-state trips for badminton competition are a testament.”
Mr. Davies said if immigration officials refuse to grant the Patel family entry into Canada, the country will have failed Kevin Patel and denied him the opportunity to have his family live in this country with him.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was unavailable to comment on the story Friday, though his communications director, Ana Curic, responded on his behalf.
Ms. Curic wrote in an email that she couldn’t discuss the Patels in detail because of privacy laws, but she said Kenney’s office contacted Davies on Friday for more information and staff are looking into the case.
“Generally speaking, decision makers at (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) must apply the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act as it is written,” Ms. Curic wrote.
“Under (the act), which came into effect in 2002, permanent resident applicants and their immediate family members must be medically assessed to determine if they pose a danger to public health or public safety, and whether their presence would pose an excessive demand on Canada’s health and social services systems.”
She continued: “Excessive demand is based on anticipated health and social service costs over a five- to 10-year period and/or the potential impact on waiting lists.
“Canada’s immigration law does not discriminate against those with illness or disability. It does strive, however, to find the appropriate balance between those wanting to immigrate to Canada, and the limited medical resources that are paid for by Canadian taxpayers.”