Below is a press release that is being circulated today by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. The release concerns a decision by Immigration Canada to reject a family’s immigration application because the family includes a disabled child.
Sweeping immigration restrictions were an important part of the eugenics movement in Canada and the US. However, I think it is not quite right to call the rejection of this family’s immigration application a form of eugenics. I think it makes a difference that an important motivation for immigration restrictions in the past was that immigrants would breed with “Canadians” and “Americans” and produce “inferior stock”. I don’t believe that is what is motivating immigration restrictions like the one discussed in the press release.
That said, what I think is true is that similar sorts of attitudes about disability underlie both historical and contemporary immigration restrictions and that such restrictions are far too sweeping and constitute a form of discrimination.
The most important attitudes that I think underlie both historical and current immigration restrictions are 1) that disability is a financial burden that the public has the right to refuse to bear, and 2) that disability is the result of some sort of biological defect possessed by an individual. It seems to me much harder to justify preventing this family from living in Canada once it’s recognized that any additional costs associated with disability (granting for the sake of argument that there are such costs, though they are often exaggerated) are the result of unjust and badly designed products, services, and institutions, which the Canadian government is largely responsible for creating and perpetuating.
Full press release is below.
For Immediate Release April 13, 2011
CCD Dismayed Family with a Disabled Child Ordered Deported
CCD will participate in a Press Conference April 14, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. at Centre Saint-Pierre, 1212 Panet Street, Montreal, with the Barlagne family who are seeking a Ministerial Permit from the Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney that would allow them to stay in Canada. Their application to immigrate has been denied because they have a child with a disability. CCD has long sought amendment of the Immigration Act to remove the “excessive demand” clause that prohibits persons with disabilities from immigration to Canada if they have a disability.
Immigration Canada contends that paying $5,259 per year for Rachel Barlagne’s education would be an excessive burden on Canada, so they are ordering her family to leave Montreal and abandon the life and business they are building in their adopted country.
“Canadians with disabilities are left wondering why a country that celebrates the contribution of people like Rick Hansen, Lieutenant Governor David Onley and others with a disability would deport a family seeking to build a life here in Canada simply because their child has a disability” stated Tony Dolan, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.
“In March of 2010 Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The actions of Immigration Canada certainly violate the spirit of the CRPD,” stated Vangelis Nikias, CCD’s CRPD Project Manager.
CCD calls upon the Minister of Immigration to allow the Barlagne family to remain in Canada on humanitarian grounds.
Canadians with disabilities also call upon all political Parties to commit to an overhaul of Canada’s immigration policy to remove the discriminatory practices that put the Barlagne family’s immigration to Canada in jeopardy. Canada’s immigration policy is based upon a negative and outdated understanding of disability that fails to recognize the contribution that people with disabilities can, and do, make.
The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), a human rights organization of people with disabilities, works for an inclusive and accessible Canada.