Government amends 'unfair' medical inadmissibility policy

By Linda Barnard, Contributor

Toronto immigration lawyer Matthew Jeffery says the federal government took a step in the right direction when it decided to drop rules that prevented disabled would-be immigrants from coming to Canada.

“This is good news for people who are applying for immigration to Canada to know that medical inadmissibility will not be an issue in most cases,” says Jeffery, who operates the immigration-focused Matthew Jeffery Barrister & Solicitor.

“It creates so much disappointment and heartbreak when entire families are rejected as the result of one person being deemed medically inadmissible,” he tells

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen announced last month that Ottawa would no longer decline permanent resident applicants who have medical conditions with low health or social service costs, or with intellectual or physical disabilities.

Hussen said not only were guidelines around medical inadmissibility more than 40 years old, they “are clearly not in line with Canadian values or our government's vision of inclusion.”

The new policy dramatically increases the cost threshold for medical inadmissibility and amends definitions of social service costs to take out references to special education, social and vocational rehabilitation, and personal support services.

Jeffery says applicants for permanent residence, together with all dependents, are required to have a medical examination. Previously, if one person had a disability or medical condition, the entire family was rejected.

He says this is often seen when permanent residents or Canadian citizens are sponsoring aging parents or grandparents to join them.

“It seems inherently unfair that an applicant should be denied as the result of medical conditions,” Jeffery says.

It’s also discriminatory to suggest a person isn’t worthy of being a member of Canadian society for the same reason, he adds.

The federal government also gives Canadian sponsors the right to appeal refusals on humanitarian grounds, which creates its own cost burden through the courts. That said, the number of applications rejected on medical inadmissibility grounds each year is low, says Jeffery, and will probably drop further with the new policy.

The government says of the 177,000 economic immigrants admitted to Canada each year, about 1,000 are affected by the medical inadmissibility policy.

Since it impacts a fraction of applicants, Jeffery says it seems inefficient to have it in place at all.

“This may be the first step in that direction,” he says. “Personally, I believe it would make more sense to scrap the whole inadmissibility on excessive demands.”

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