It’s been wrong for Canada to separate families

TheStar.com – Opinion/Columnists – The federal government has promised to finally remove the excessive demand provision used to prevent immigrants from bring their families to Canada
Nov. 21, 2017.   By

“We’re not criminals,” says Amalia Loyzaga, “We work here. We follow the rules here. What else do they want from me?”

Although she has been in Canada since 2008 and fulfilled the requirements of the live-in caregiver visa, Loyzaga’s application for permanent residency was denied because of her daughter’s autism.

Under section 38(1)c of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Immigration Canada can refuse any applicant who might “cause excessive demand on health or social services.”

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced Wednesday that the government will be looking at how to let go of the excessive demand provision. At a Commons committee, Hussen said, “From a principled perspective, the current excessive demand provision policy simply does not align with our country’s values of inclusion of person with disabilities in Canadian society.”

Thanks to the advocacy of caregivers like Loyzaga, this overdue change is finally being made.

According to a report by Global News this summer, immigration authorities deny between 900 and 1,000 applications on the basis of “excessive demand” per year; of those 200 to 300 cases are denied for “special education needs.” That reporting also pointed out that the Immigration Canada’s per-person monetary threshold for excessive demand was flawed in that it excluded provincial spending on social services and the cost of the Canada Social Transfer.

Amalia’s family isn’t the only one. York University professor Felipe Montoya’s family’s application was denied because his son Nicholas has Down’s syndrome.

Kara and Alaistair Sharp were told by Immigration Canada that they had to put their son Sebastian — who has cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder — into a private school in order to decrease the burden he placed on the public school system.

While some migrants are better able to fight the battle, the excessive demand provision amounts to discrimination against kids with disabilities. It is unreasonably taxing for parents who already have to navigate a world that is not designed with their children in mind. It is even more so for caregivers whose kids are oceans away.

Unable to bring their children to Canada with them, they miss out on important moments. After her first few years here, Amalia returned to the Philippines to find that her children didn’t know who she was. I spoke to her by phone on Tuesday. At one point, she broke down in tears saying, “They used to be my kids. From then on, I said I have to go home every year to win back my children’s love for me.”

While technology has made staying connected easier, there are moments no parent wants to miss. This February, her husband passed away, leaving her three kids without the father who had been their primary parent.

“The barriers for entry under the new caregiver systems are high,” says Ethel Tungohan, a professor at York University who studies the caregiver migrant class. “For a lot of people who are waiting in the queue, it’s simply the uncertainty of not being able to plan for their family and their family’s futures.”

Amalia and her three kids have lived in this suspended reality since at least 2012. Many of changes to the caregiver system were made in 2014. Since then, the processing time for permanent residency applications has gone from 26 months in 2013 to 56 months as of this year.

In that time, says Tungohan, more applicants of all migrant classes have received rejections based on excessive demand. For caregivers who don’t have the emotional support of family or the economic resources of other applicant group, they generally bear it alone.

Progress has come from when families have gone public. Publicity winning out over political will is an indictment of the immigration system. Says Tungohan, “I think it shows that the system is flawed. What we’re seeing is a whole host of people being discriminated against because of disability.”

The provision has authorized immigration authorities to discriminate against disabled persons. Repealing the excessive demand provision must be the first choice.

As her children grow older, Amalia is only more insistent in bringing her kids here.

She just wants whatever time she can get.

“If I had a chance to talk to the immigration officer, I’d say can you give me these four years to bond with my sons before they get married and before they have their own careers.

“Give me these four years.”

Vicky Mochama is a co-host of the podcast, Safe Space. Her column appears every second Thursday. She also writes a triweekly column for Metro News that mixes politics, news and humour.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2017/11/21/its-been-wrong-for-canada-to-separate-families.html

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