While the United States hovers on the brink of flaxen-haired disaster, our northern neighbors have ushered in their era of Twinklingly Handsome Social Justice. If Trump wins, we could always up and move to Canada. Right?
Canada, it turns out, has something of a habit of unwelcoming immigrant families with children with disabilities. This fact received some recent notoriety when The Globe and Mail reported on a university professor from Costa Rica, Felipe Montoya. Montoya’s family was denied Canadian permanent residency because the government decided that his son with Down syndrome would likely cost more per year than it was willing to pay.
Really, Canada? Really? Is this what you want to be known for? Eugenics Lite?
Rick Mercer, a Canadian television personality, made a viral-ish video rant against this policy called, “My Canada Includes an Extra Chromosome.” In it, he rightly points out the difficulty of predicting any person’s costs to the government.
Indeed I’ve reported that, contrary to many people’s expectations, when it would come time for Montoya’s son to look for a job, employing him would likely be no act of charity. Hiring people with intellectual disabilities is a good business move and a sound investment.
“This is the way the [Canadian] government has always treated social programs and benefits,” said Betsy Kane in an interview with The Daily Beast. Kane is an immigration lawyer with Cappelle Kane in Ontario.
Disabled children have never been permitted to immigrate without caveats to Canada. The only reason this story hit the press, Kane suggested, was because Montoya is a tenured professor.
Kane argued that Montoya could have fought to stay in the country “on the grounds of the functioning of that child,” but he perhaps chose not to. Parents with greater financial means and less severely disabled children can offer to cover the costs of their children’s care themselves, Kane said.
Canadian families do not have to cover the costs of their disabled child’s medical care and extra educational costs. If immigrants want to stay, however, then richer ones can pay to do so.
How about families like mine, with more severely disabled children? Kane says Canada would probably say farewell and adieu.
David Baker, a Canadian disability rights lawyer who is consulting for Montoya, agrees that Canadian prospects are bleak for my family.
He says that according to Canadian law, preventing disabled children from entering the country is not considered discrimination. Rather, it’s a question of preventing excessive demand on resources.
If you have a child with more severe disabilities, Baker says, “You’re probably going to have a hard time coming to Canada without a large bank account or a high profile.”
Baker notes that in the case of refugees, Canada does not discriminate on the basis of disability. Canada accepts that some refugees will be disabled and is willing to bear that cost for the benefit of a more just society. The country has not yet done so for other immigrants, however.
I would have to agree with Canadian taxpayers that it’s quite likely that my child will cost more than he will ever pay in taxes. I’m not sure that should be the end of the calculation, though. Given my husband, me, and his brothers, I’m far from sure that my family as a whole wouldn’t contribute more than we would cost Canada.
Also, of course, I’m a mom, and I think my kid is amazingly fabulous, funny, charming, loving, and kind. He brings untold non-monetary benefits. Any country is beyond lucky to have him.
Alas, that’s not how the Canadian government sees it.
What if we did start viewing people as investments that are only worth paying into if they eventually pay off? That line of thinking gets uncomfortable quickly. For example: should we stop spending any money in school districts in which students tend to graduate to very low-paying jobs? What if research found that more spending made the students safer, happier, healthier, but they earned no more money in the long run?
If a Canadian family with a kid with, say, Down Syndrome or Cri du Chat Syndrome wants to move to the United States to escape Justin Trudeau, it’s no bar to permanent residency or citizenship. The family does not need to guarantee the child’s educational or medical costs.
For the first five years, the family is not entitled to certain benefits, such as food stamps or SSI. They are entitled to emergency Medicaid and the child is entitled to an education. After five years, though, they are entitled to full benefits.
So, even if Trump wins, it looks like our family is stuck in the United States. New Zealand looks lovely, with all those mountains and sheep! Maybe we could move there? But wait, New Zealand’s a no-go for my family, too. And Australia’s also out.
Oh dear. Looks like our only exit strategy is to hunker down and wait Trump out. Send us postcards from Canada!