News / Toronto

Boy with Down syndrome's Canadian residency denial 'unfair': Lawyer

York University professor Felipe Montoya says immigration officials have denied his permanent residency application because his son has Down syndrome.

Nico Montoya, a 13-year-old boy with Down syndrome, smiles at his home in Richmond Hill, Ont., on Saturday, March 19, 2016. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has told Nico’s father, Felipe Montoya, that his son's condition makes him inadmissible to Canada.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Nico Montoya, a 13-year-old boy with Down syndrome, smiles at his home in Richmond Hill, Ont., on Saturday, March 19, 2016. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has told Nico’s father, Felipe Montoya, that his son's condition makes him inadmissible to Canada.

Federal immigration law needs to be “tweaked” to prevent would-be Canadians from being denied residency if their family members are ill or disabled, says one legal expert.

Toronto immigration and refugee lawyer Mary Keyork called the case of Felipe Montoya – whose family may be forced to leave the country because his son has Down syndrome – “outrageous.”

Montoya, a professor of environmental studies at York University, came to Toronto four years ago from Costa Rica. He says immigration officials denied his residency application because his 13-year-old son Nico would be an undue “burden” on the system.

“Children and family members can be sick, and that’s part of life. I really think it’s an unfair decision, because I don’t think it’s going to be that much of a burden,” Keyork said.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Nico functions at the level of a three-year-old and could cost the system between $20,000 and $25,000 a year for special educational support.

Montoya disputes the findings, saying his son is making use of the same publicly available resources as his daughter – who has no disability.

Cases of medical inadmissibility are rare, Keyork said, and are meant to apply in instances where the health of an applicant poses a danger to society, such as someone with HIV-AIDS.

The language of the law should be made clearer, Keyork said. With the way the law is worded now, she said one of her paraplegic clients could be declared inadmissible, even though he’s using very little medication and getting support from the community, not the system.

Ultimately, Keyork feels the “Canadian goal of uniting more families” should take precedence in the law.

“We are Canada. We are not supposed to make these things hard for people,” she said.

With files from The Canadian Press