Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen announced on February 16 that he will present a plan by April 12 that will amend a current law which bars immigrants based on their medical conditions from being admitted to Canada.
The announcement came after a parliamentary committee released a report in which it recommended Ottawa repeal a provision in the law that bars people with disabilities and excessive health needs from immigrating to Canada.
“Our immigration laws unjustifiably violate human rights of certain would-be newcomers to Canada and this is inconsistent with the modern values Canadians associate with contemporary human rights protections”, the report said.
Hussen said the practice of denying immigrants with medical conditions admission to Canada is discriminatory and “does not align with our country’s values of inclusion of person with disabilities in Canadian society”.
Under the current law, immigration officers can determine whether an individual is likely to place excessive demand on health and social services. Demand is found to be “excessive” if it exceeds the average annual health care costs for a Canadian, which is currently estimated at $6,655.
Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations defines “excessive demand” as a demand on health services or social services for which the anticipated costs would likely exceed average Canadian per capita health services and social services costs, or a demand on health services or social services that would add to existing waiting lists and would increase the rate of mortality and morbidity in Canada as a result of an inability to provide timely services to Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Canadians continue to report some of the longest wait times for doctors, specialists and emergency department visits compared with citizens in other developed countries.
A 2017 survey found that less than half (43%) of Canadians could get a same- or next-day appointment with their family doctor or at their regular place of care the last time they needed medical attention, compared with top-performing countries like New Zealand (76%) and the Netherlands (77%). Only 34% of patients were able to receive medical care in the evenings, on weekends or on holidays without going to the emergency department.
Canadians also have the longest reported emergency department waits and the longest wait times for specialists. 56% of Canadians reported waiting longer than 4 weeks to see a specialist, compared with the international average of 36%.