Immigration Canada tried to block two families that each has a child with an intellectual disability from immigrating to the country. It refused their permanent residency applications on the grounds that the children might cause “excessive demands” on social services.
Fortunately, the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada did not agree. On October 21, they rendered their decision in two cases, the Hilewitz and de Jong cases, which were on appeal from the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA). The families appealed the decisions of the FCA that a medical officer is not required to consider the family’s personal circumstances, including a family’s ability to provide disability supports, in making recommendations about their immigration to Canada.
The decision is a victory for persons with disabilities and their families. Justice Rosie Abella noted that Canadian immigration policy has applied “exclusionary euphemistic designations” that concealed prejudices about persons with disabilities. The Court directed that Immigration Canada should conduct individualized assessments of a family’s immigration application and immigration officials should consider the resources, time, personal and financial supports, as well as community supports, that families are able and willing to provide.
ARCH represented the Canadian Association of Community Living (CACL) and Ethno-Racial People With Disabilities Coalition of Ontario (ERDCO) before the Supreme Court of Canada in both cases. The CACL and ERDCO intervened in order to draw the court’s attention to the fact that people with disabilities are denied admission to Canada based on negative stereotypes.