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Canada Canada contends it tried to help disabled woman

The Canadian government did everything it could to help a woman denied permission to immigrate because of multiple sclerosis, a lawyer insisted in court yesterday.

Although Angela Chesters was denied permanent residency by immigration officials who stated that she would make excessive demands on the health-care system, she was granted a ministerial permit to live here with her Canadian husband, lawyer Debra McAllister said.

"Everything Canada could have done it did, correct? It did everything possible," Ms. McAllister said in her cross-examination of Ms. Chesters, who is seeking damages and a declaration from the Federal Court of Canada that the Immigration Act discriminates against the disabled.

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"Incorrect," Ms. Chesters snapped back. "I don't have the expertise to know what is possible. You are the one who knows that."

The 44-year-old schoolteacher, who holds a full-time job at a German technical college despite her illness, insisted that in denying her permanent residency because of her disability, Canada Immigration demeaned her and overlooked the economic and other contributions she would make to the country.

When Ms. McAllister confronted Ms. Chesters with a neurologist's report stating that she may require increasing nursing care as the years progress, Ms. Chesters responded: "With all due respect, you may require increasing nursing care."

Ms. McAllister questioned Ms. Chesters' physical capabilities, her motives for bringing the court application, and even the fact that she and her husband have not had children although Ms. Chesters says she wants them.

The lawyer suggested that the psychological damage Ms. Chesters says she has suffered from Canada's rejection is really the result of other events in her life, including a bad relationship with her parents and her medical condition.

She then asked Ms. Chesters whether she would accept permanent residency and settle the case if the government were to offer it now. Madam Justice Elizabeth Heneghan quickly intervened and told Ms. McAllister that was an improper question.

A retired medical officer from Canada Immigration testified yesterday that officers base their assessments of how much a person will cost the health-care system and of how employable they are on "generic" and "stereotypical" factors.

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Employability is "generalized; it is not based on an individual's work record but on the likelihood of people with a certain illness being employable," Dr. Ted Axler told the court.

Excessive demand for health-care services is calculated from a formula that the average Canadian costs the system $12,500 over five years, said Dr. Axler, who was an assistant director of the Immigration Department's assessment unit in Ottawa from 1991 to 1993.

"Excessive demand would be costs above that line," he said.

Estimates of the costs of disorders are worked out in consultation with medical experts, he testified, and are based on expectations for all patients with a disorder, not individuals.

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