By Emily Matesic
Canada prides itself to be an inclusive and accessible society. However, for newcomers with disabilities, the level of protection expected in Canada may not apply to them. While Canada has taken steps to make immigration more accessible, one major barrier still exists; disability.
In 2018, Canada revised its Medical Inadmissibility Policy under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This revision entailed an increase of the previous cost threshold for medical inadmissibility by three times. It also included changing the definition of social services to better reflect Canadian standards of accessibility. Canada also offers an alternative application process for immigrants with disabilities. Applicants who qualify may be able to bypass the limitations of applying under Express Entry which requires the submission of an application for permanent residence. Instead, they would be instructed to contact the Call Center of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, where qualified professionals can assist in accommodating specific disabilities. This can quickly become a lengthy and difficult process, ultimately creating more barriers for applicants with disabilities.
While Canada’s federal government is largely responsible for immigration policies, provinces and cities are responsible when accommodating the needs of people with mobility disabilities. For example, Toronto has made community centers available to people with disabilities who need access to physical therapy. In Montreal, Centraid of Montreal provides social integration services for minority ethnocultural groups with disabilities. In Hamilton, the Immigrants Working Center is committed to being accessible for people with disabilities. While having a disability continues to present significant barriers in covering basic human needs such as housing and food security, these services are beneficial in including newcomers with disabilities in Canadian cities.
Cities in Canada are taking important steps towards being more inclusive and in this blog mini-series, I will explore how Canadian cities provide accessibility to immigrants and refugees with disabilities, and how policies and services can be improved.