Canada Denies Residency to 13-Year-Old With Down Syndrome: He’d be a “Burden” to the Health System

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jan 30, 2017   |   4:51PM   |   Ottawa, Canada

Yet more evidence of society weighing the value of human lives in dollars and cents, an Ontario family said the Canadian government denied them residency because their son’s Down syndrome may burden the national health system.

UPDATE: This decision was overturned in August.

The Star reports Felipe Montoya, an environmental studies professor at York University in Toronto, has lived in Canada for four years with his family and paid taxes. He, his wife and two children applied for permanent residency with Citizenship and Immigration Canada three years ago; their previous home was in Costa Rica, according to the report.

Recently, however, the Montoya family said they received a letter from the CIC denying their family residency because their son has Down syndrome and could be a burden on the government. The agency estimated 13-year-old Nicolas Montoya’s special education would cost up to $25,000 per year, the report states.

Now, the whole family may have to move.

“We consider it to be in contradiction to the charter for many reasons, and we think that it’s based on outdated views of so-called disabilities and that it needs to be looked at again and brought up to date,” his father said in a telephone interview with The Star.

Here’s more from the report:

The fact that his son Nicolas had Down syndrome was disclosed at the outset and confirmed by doctors the family visited for the medical exams required for the application process. Montoya said Nicolas, along with all the rest of the family, was found to be perfectly healthy.

Montoya hoped the medical clearance would help finalize his application, but a letter from CIC told a different story.

“I have determined that your family member Nicolas Montoya is a person whose health condition might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on social services in Canada,” reads a letter sent to Montoya. “An excessive demand is a demand for which the anticipated costs exceed the average Canadian per capita health and social services costs, which is currently set at $6,387.”

Canadian immigration lawyer Henry Chang said the Montoyas’ case is not unusual. He told the news outlet the country has strict immigration laws involving family members with expensive medical conditions.

The family has not yet decided whether to challenge the CIC’s decision.

Stigma about people with disabilities like Down syndrome is wide-spread, leading to many different types of discrimination, including abortion.

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Some countries’ actions are adding to the stigma. Just a few months ago, French television officials refused to air an award-winning video from World Down Syndrome Day. The short ad featured people with Down syndrome explaining what they can do: talk, read, write, go to school, get jobs, live independently and more. The French State Counsel rejected the ad as “inappropriate” because the “happy faces” might “disturb” women who had abortions.

A new study out of Canada in January also has many concerned that people with disabilities or diseases may be pressured to commit euthanasia. The Canadian Medical Association Journal published the study, which estimated euthanasia deaths could save taxpayers between $34.7 million and $138.3 million per year.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said studies like these put social pressure on people to die by euthanasia.

Associating euthanasia with medical cost savings creates a belief that euthanasia is a social good. People who feel that their life has lost value may now consider it altruistic to ‘choose’ to die by euthanasia,” Schadenberg wrote.

Later, he added, “Associating euthanasia with medical savings creates pressure for people who choose to live until they die. ‘How dare you choose to live. You costing society money.’”