Family denied permanent residency because their child has Down Syndrome

A recent media flare brought to light the situation of the hopeful family of four that moved to Canada in hopes of starting a new life here several years ago, like many.

Felipe Montoya was offered the opportunity to fill a position as a tenured professor of environmental studies at York University, so he left his native Costa Rica in pursuit of this new start.

Their family was much like any other; a mother, father and two children. However, the Montoyas, after having made a life in Canada, were denied permanent residency because of the fact that their son, Nico, was born with an extra chromosome.

The Canadian Immigration Center (CIC) states that people living with Down syndrome have the potential to use up to five times the standard allotted resources Canadians can be expected to use per year.

Canadian citizens can usually be expected to claim up to $24,030 over the course of five years. Any further home care, special education services, rehabilitation services, devices and additional services the prospective resident may require is deemed to be an excessive demand of health services, and they can be denied permanent residency on these grounds.

The rationale behind this stipulation is that in allowing immigrants with complex and costly medical conditions to receive permanent residency, the inevitable result would be increased wait times to health care for Canadian citizens as well as higher taxes.

As a result of this, the CIC determined that the Montoyas should not be permitted permanent residency in Canada.

Montoya contested the denial of permanent residency on the grounds of a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights, in addition to the fact that he claims Nico had not been accessing any additional resources due to Down syndrome.

“We consider it to be in contradiction to the Charter for many reasons, and we think that it’s based on outdated views of so-called disabilities and that it needs to be looked at again and brought up to date,” he stated.

The Halton Down syndrome Association of Canada (HDSA) stated that the levels of daily functioning and cognitive, motor and sensory capabilities vary so widely across individuals with Down syndrome that they should be treated and considered on a case-by-case basis.

In response to this, the CIC did allow the family of the individual with Down syndrome to submit a report which outlines the expected healthcare, mobility and educational costs associated with their specific family member, as an appeal to the law stating those with chronic, complex health needs should not be granted admission into the country.

If it is found to be within what the CIC deems to be reasonable, they may be permitted permanent residency.

These policies exist for salient reasons. However, the government could have had the foresight to administer these medical tests which screen for suitability and medical needs before families’ settle, create lives in Canada and set their long-term plans for continued residency in this country.

Policies ensuring families are aware of the potential barriers to immigration, including medical inadmissibility, should be implemented to prevent further disruptive situations for families.

Based on this lack of lack of knowledge made available to them in terms of their options for residency, the Montoyas should have been permitted to stay.

The question of whether the quality of one human life trumps the needs of the many, the issue of the ability of Canadian citizens to have affordable and timely healthcare, and the presence of political borders in terms of human healthcare is one that remains up for debate and which is beyond the scope of this article.

Hopefully, although the Montoyas were denied residency, this story will spark discourse about Canadian immigration policy and universal human rights.