Medical Inadmissibility

On June 1st, Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) implemented the new medical inadmissibility policy that they announced in April of this year. Medical inadmissibility is a tricky topic as it pits costs and ability to privately pay for medical bills against how we treat and value individuals with disabilities. From a policy perspective it has seen much discussion and criticism, starting with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions in Hilowitz and De Jong back in 2005 and with the development of diversity and inclusion policies over the past decade.

Currently a foreign national can be prevented from entering Canada on grounds of medical inadmissibility. An individual can be found medically inadmissible for conditions that are highly contagious and considered a public danger, or for conditions which require significant medical care and/or social services and are therefore considered a drain the public healthcare system.

For example, if you have asthma, a chronic health issue which can cause hospitalization, because it is not contagious and the individual’s use of the healthcare system is not significantly more than the average Canadian, it is unlikely that an individual would be considered medically inadmissible. However, an individual with active tuberculosis would likely be considered inadmissible due to the contagious nature of the disease. Similarly, a person undergoing cancer treatment would likely be found inadmissible based on cost to the healthcare system.

Previously a “drain on public healthcare” was considered to be costs that exceed the average Canadian’s annual healthcare costs, however IRCC announced policy changes this past April that increase the threshold costs by approximately three times the amount. In addition, IRCC is removing specified services from the definition of social services when calculating such costs. These changes went into effect last Friday, June 1, 2018.

Like with criminal inadmissibility, medical inadmissibility can make an entire family inadmissible to Canada, but it can be overcome in some circumstances with a TRP when an individual is entering Canada on a temporary basis. The issuance of the TRP on medical grounds may however prevent the holder of the TRP from gaining access to Provincial healthcare systems. Medical inadmissibility can be an absolute bar to permanent residence applications (with a few exceptions).

The area in which we most often see medical inadmissibility being invoked is with children of foreign workers or families seeking permanent residence to Canada who have medical issues like autism or developmental delays and require special educational services and other social supports throughout their lives. This creates a very difficult situation where the competing interests of the use of public funds, sometimes when there are already limited resources and placements for individuals who are already Canadian citizens, and how we as a society view and value individuals with disabilities.

The Canadian Government’s standing committee on citizenship and immigration has recommended eliminating the medical inadmissibility policy. This is still under review.


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