Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says current medical inadmissibility rules for newcomers are out of touch with Canadian values and need to be reformed.
Hussen appeared before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Immigration on Wednesday as part of a broader review of medical inadmissibility rules for immigrants, which he said was “necessary and long overdue.”
Canada’s current policy of refusing immigrants deemed likely to cause excessive demand on health and social services is more than 40 years old and needs to be brought into the 21st century, Hussen said.
“From a principled perspective, the current excessive demand provision simply does not align with our country’s values and the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Canadian society,” Hussen said.
Section 38-1C of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act defines excessive demand as one “for which the anticipated costs would likely exceed average Canadian per capita health services and social services” over a period of five consecutive years immediately following the most recent medical assessment. In some cases, that period can be extended to 10 consecutive years. The anticipated impact on existing wait times for health and social services in Canada is also considered.
In 2017, the cost threshold for a demand to be considered excessive was $6,655 per year, or $33,275 over five years.
There are a number of exemptions to the excessive demand policy in cases of Family Sponsorship for a sponsor’s spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner and dependent child.
Savings through current rules ‘incredibly small’
Decisions based on the excessive demand rules result in estimated annual savings of about $135 million, Hussen said. In 2015, that amount represented 0.1 per cent of all health spending in Canada.
“The numbers we are talking about are incredibly small,” he said.
Hussen noted that his department, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), launched its own review of the policy in 2016 that consulted with Canada’s provincial and territorial governments and disability advocates, and took into consideration the current legal landscape.
A number of potential changes have been discussed, Hussen noted, including adjustments to the cost threshold and changes in the groups exempt from the provision.
‘All options on the table’
When asked if IRCC would consider scrapping the excessive demand rule altogether, Hussen said “all options are on the table.”
He stressed, however, that the medical examination now required of every applicant for a Canada Immigration Visa and some applicants for temporary status in Canada will remain in place.
The goal of the review, Hussen said, is to uphold the federal and provincial governments commitment to ensuring both the protection of Canada’s health and social services and the fair treatment of immigrants.