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House of Commons report calls on IRCC to repeal ‘excessive demand’ rules

Parliamentary committee is recommending the repeal of a controversial section of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that refuses entry to immigrants deemed likely to cause “excessive demand” on the country’s healthcare system.


The House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration held hearings over the last few weeks on the Act’s medical inadmissibility provisions, and Section 38-1C in particular.


Under that section, a prospective immigrant can be ruled inadmissible on health grounds if their health condition “might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services.”


Excessive demand is defined as one “for which the anticipated costs would likely exceed average Canadian per capita health services and social services” over a five or 10-year period, or which would exacerbate existing wait times for health and social services in Canada.


In 2017, the cost threshold for a demand to be considered excessive was $6,655 per year, or $33,275 over five years.


In a report on the hearings released Dec. 12, the standing committee said Section 38-1C “is out of touch with Canadian values” and at odds with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Canada ratified in 2010.


As long as the provision remains in Canada’s  Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the report says, “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 standing committee’s five recommendations begin with the full repeal of Section 38-1C  along with its exemptions and all corresponding regulations from the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This first recommendation also calls on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to repeal all corresponding policies and guidelines associated with Section 38-1C.


Review of excessive demand ‘necessary and long overdue’


In an appearance before the committee on Nov. 23, Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said “all options were on the table” with regard to the excessive demand provision, including its repeal.


In his remarks, Hussen said a review of the provision was “necessary and long overdue,” noting that it was more than 40 years old and had to be brought into the 21st century.


“From a principled perspective, the current excessive demand provision simply does not align with our country’s values and the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Canadian society,” Hussen told the committee.


Hussen said IRCC was consulting with Canada’s provincial and territorial governments in order to determine the way forward on Section 38-1C.


Recognizing that a full repeal could take time, the committee recommended a number of interim measures to improve the application of the excessive demand as long as it remains on the books.


Those interim measures include:


  • Proper training for immigration/visa officers in assessing the reasonableness of the medical officers’ recommendations; and that medical officers are properly trained to evaluate the individual’s entire application.
  • A fundamental review by IRCC of how it calculates the cost threshold for excessive demand on health and social services by eliminating from current definitions those services that are not publicly funded.
  • Ensure the cost threshold for excessive demand on health and social services is calculated by economists based on provincial, territorial and federal data.
  • Expanding the categories of exemptions to the excessive demand provision to include economic applicants that are already working in Canada and their family members.
  • Provide applicants with timely decisions and procedural fairness letters that are written in plain language and are comprehensive in nature, including rationales, in order fully
    to inform applicants of the findings they must address to overcome a finding of excessive demand.


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