Advocates ask the government to rethink disablist immigration law
The "excessive demand" clause in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act bars people from permanent residency (PR) if they're expected to be a significant burden on the system.
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At an emotionally charged press conference Monday, workers called on the federal government to abolish immigration rules they say are stacked against people with disabilities.
The "excessive demand" clause in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act bars people from permanent residency (PR) if they're expected to be a significant burden on the system. The clause can kill a PR application, and would-be sponsorship, if a family member’s medical condition “might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services.”
Human-rights lawyer Fay Faraday called it "hypocritical," pointing out that medical inadmissibility affects many caregivers under the Temporary Foreign Worker program who themselves care for disabled Canadians.
“They’re here providing the services to your family members with disabilities but are themselves being denied to bring their families here,” she said. “We’ll take their labour but we won’t take their families.”
The Caregivers Action Centre says 1,000 people and their families are affected by such clauses each year.
With the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration hearing submissions on the issue this week, advocates want the government to remove what they call disablist rules. They want residency granted to migrants previously denied by the excessive demand clause and new arrivals to be given full rather than partial status on arrival, as often applies to more highly skilled, highly paid workers.
Josarie Danieles came to Canada from the Philippines in 2010 under the Live-In Caregiver Program but had her PR application challenged because her 14-year-old daughter Precious Ann Margaret was diagnosed with an intellectual disability.
In total, Danieles has now been away from her two daughters and husband for almost a decade. She came to Canada after a stint in Hong Kong, believing she could eventually apply for PR and sponsor her family to come here, too. After toiling in low-paying caregiver jobs, by December 2013 she had acquired the necessary work hours to apply.
“I felt like I was dying when I was denied,” she said. “I don’t know what to do and where to go. I felt so hopeless. I wanted to scream; my mind was flying.”
Danieles has re-applied for PR on humanitarian grounds but feels unsure of the future.
“My daughters need their mother,” she said. “Every mother in Canada knows this. No one should be separated from their families.”
Mercedes Benitez was also forced to appeal on humanitarian grounds. After coming to Canada as a live-in caregiver in March 2008, she was initially refused PR in December 2015. Her son Harold has an intellectual disability.
“I was so hurt,” she said. “I questioned, is there really a god? Don’t the people in immigration have hearts? Don’t they have families too?”
Although her application was finally accepted in April, she thinks the law itself needs to be reconsidered.
“We deserve to be treated as human beings,” Benitez said.
Excessive demands? Three women, three cases
Dr. Loree Erickson, Amalia Loyzaga and Josarie Danieles have each been affected by the excessive demand clause as they attempted to secure permanent residency.
Dr. Loree Erickson
After moving to Canada from the United States 14 years ago to pursue a graduate-level education, Erickson has since completed a PhD and has lectured at U of T, Ryerson and OCAD. But her efforts to gain PR over the past five years have fallen short because of the excessive demand clause; Erickson has a disability.
One of the first alumni of the Critical Disability Studies program at York University, she recently tried the humanitarian route to PR — but two weeks ago she received a letter saying she had been denied, with no explanation.
“I know for a fact that if I had been non-disabled that I would have been accepted,” she said. “I’m a white, professional professor with a PhD, from America.”
A mother of three who lost her husband in February, Loyzaga moved to Canada with the hope her family could follow her — but they have now been apart for a decade. Her PR application was challenged because her daughter is autistic.
An activist with the Caregivers Action Centre, Loyzaga said she badly wants to be reunited with her daughter and two sons, who remain in the Philippines.
“Just over a year ago we were here with the same demand,” she said. “(The clause) cannot be reformed; it must be repealed. So many of us are affected by this discriminatory law.”
When Danieles came to Canada in 2010 after a year-and-a-half in Hong Kong, she says she handed over $6,000 to a recruitment firm to secure a job. She knew it was risky but took out a bank loan to pay the fee, she said, “because I felt like I could give my daughter a better life.”
She worked 15 hours a day, five days a week, taking care of seven people for $900 a month. In December 2013 she qualified to apply for PR but was denied this year because of her daughter’s intellectual disability. Her daughter remains in the Philippines.
“If I go home, I don’t have a future,” she said. “Whether she has a disability or not, she should be with me.”
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