The issue

The Canada Immigration Act requires this country to reject applications for immigration from persons with any “disease, disorder, disability or other health impairment” which may cause them to be “a danger to public health or public safety” or which may reasonably be expected to place “excessive demands on health or social services.”

Our position

The provisions of the Canada Immigration Act discriminate against Deaf and disabled people and should be removed.

Deaf people in other countries who apply to immigrate to Canada are often rejected because of their deafness. But deafness is not a “disease, disorder, disability or other health impairment”, it is a cultural identity.

Deafness is not “a danger to public health or public safety”. It is not infectious. Studies have shown Deaf people have a better safety and health record than hearing people in the workplace and while driving.

Deaf people do not wish to come to Canada to exploit our health and social services. Deafness does not require constant attendant care, subsidized medicine, lengthy hospitalization, or similar treatment.

Most Deaf people wish to come here because they have no rights or privileges in their own countries. Many developing countries ban Deaf people from owning property, holding a job, marrying, and attending school. The result is that they have little or no education, poor or no employment, and no financial resources. These facts are often used as excuses to reject their application to immigrate to Canada.

The decision to accept or reject an application is often made by immigration officers who have no awareness of deafness and no ability to communicate effectively with Deaf people. None of the immigration judges, none of the Canada Immigration personnel, and none of the medical personnel hired to evaluate the immigration applicant’s disability are themselves Deaf and therefore qualified to pass judgment on the applicant. The Deaf person’s application is assessed solely on the basis of his/her deafness by people all down the line who have absolutely no competence to evaluate him/her as a Deaf person. This is completely unacceptable.

In February of 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a joint ruling in Hilewitz v. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and de Jong v. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration that essentially upheld the “disability clause” that allows Canada to reject immigration applicants on the grounds that their disability will cause “excessive demands on social services”. This is the same clause that is used to reject Deaf applicants.

Despite the Court’s decision, their argument exposes the self-contradiction and bogus assumptions of the “disability clause”. The dissenting report of Justice Deschamps states, “The question is whether the demands on those services are excessive in relation to the demands generated by other members of Canadian society.” But “other members of Canadian society”, by which they clearly mean non-disabled people, do not use disability services! How can the usage of disability services by non-disabled persons possibly be used as a valid measurement by which to determine “excessive” demand on those services?

If the argument is that “other members of Canadian society” means other disabled Canadians, then again the demand cannot possibly be excessive, because the immigrants would be using the exact same services that are being used by Canadians that have the same disability. There is no difference in the amount of “demand” placed on Deaf services by Deaf Canadians and by Deaf immigrants to Canada. There is absolutely zero data proving otherwise.

In 2015, a non-Deaf professional caregiver who had lived in Canada for seven years applied to bring her Deaf daughter from the Philippines. The daughter had no support and no prospects in the Philippines, being ostracized by all of her relatives there because of her deafness and her father having died several years earlier; yet she had proven herself a bright and accomplished youth whose first language happened to be Sign. Canada Immigration ruled that she would be an “excessive burden on social services” and ordered her mother to either give up her daughter or pay the mindboggling sum of $92,000 as the amount the department had decided she would cost Canadian taxpayers. This was despite the fact that the Deaf school in British Columbia and the BC provincial government both wrote counter-arguments that the daughter would in fact cost no excess amount at all. The decision was completely irrational, in defiance of common sense and common decency, destructive of a loving family, and just plain discriminatory.

Nor was it an isolated case. The CAD-ASC receives requests for immigration assistance several times every month. One case involved non-Deaf parents from England, both of whom had long-term (multi-year) employment contracts with the Canadian armed forces. They were ordered by Canada Immigration to leave their Deaf son in England or pay $75,000 in advance for the “excessive burden” he would cause, even though both parents signed legal affidavits pledging to pay all his costs themselves.

In the 1990s, CAD-ASC was requested to support a Hong Kong multi-millionaire who wanted to send his Deaf adult son to establish a Canadian branch of his corporation, creating hundreds of new jobs in this country. Even he was rejected by Canada Immigration as a “burden on social services”!

Thousands of non-disabled applicants are approved for immigration into Canada even when they openly boast that their sole reason for coming to this country is to exploit our social support system; the infamous Khadr family is an example. In contrast, we have yet to come across a single Deaf applicant whose motive for coming to Canada is to exploit our social services. All of them want to come here for the purpose of furthering their education, finding employment, and/or learning the Sign language that is forbidden in their native country. We do not know of even one exception to this rule.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities explicitly forbids discrimination against immigration applicants on the basis of their disability. Canada is a signatory to this Convention and is bound by its proscription on discrimination. And yet Canada Immigration and the disability clause remain indisputably and unapologetically discriminatory against Deaf and disabled persons.

It is time to end this blatant, inhumane, legally sanctioned discrimination. It is time to remove the disability clause from the Canada Immigration Act.


The Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada
606 – 251 Bank Street
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1X3
(613) 565-2882