QCOSTARICA – A Costa Rican family is forced to leave Canada, three years after living in Toronto, because Canadian immigration officials have refused to give the family permanent residency because their 13-year-old son, Nico, has Down syndrome.
Canadian officials say the cost is too much of a burden on taxpayers.
According to a report by CBC News, Felipe Montoya and Alejandra Garcia Prieto have been trying to get permanent residency in Canada since they first moved to Toronto three years ago with their two teenage children, so Montoya could teach environmental studies at York University.
“Our fight is more of a matter of principle,” Montoya told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Monday. “You have people who are deemed inadmissible because they may cost the state.”
Montoya said when he first landed the job at York University, the international hiring officer warned him that he might encounter stumbling blocks to permanent residency because of Nico’s condition, but he thought he must have misheard the officer.
“He was singled out solely because of his genetic identity,” he explained. “The only difference is he has a genetic condition that makes him different.”
This is not the first time Canada denied residency or barred entry to people with illnesses or disabilities.
While Nico is too young to really understand what’s happening, their 17-year-old daughter, Tanya, believes what’s happening to her family is unjust, according to Garcia Prieto.
All four family members will be moving back to Costa Rica in June, but Montoya plans to keep discussing the issue publicly.
In a telephone interview with La Nacion from her home in Toronto, Garcia Prieto said, “I think it’s unfair that we have being denied residence in a country for the genetic condition of our son, because Down syndrome is a genetic condition and not a disease.”
For this Costa Rica it is “hard to understand”, but not surprising. “We field for the residency three years when we came to Canada, the lawyer warned us that it was very possible that we would be rejected for the condition of our son. The lawyer said that is common to reject residences for the deaf, blind, autism and Down syndrome because they generate excessive costs for the state,” Nico’s mother told La Nacion.
In Costa Rica, by way of email, the Canadian Embassy replied to a query by La Nacion, saying “We have contacted the Immigration section (which is in Guatemala) to see if they could give statements. I tell in advance it will be difficult to comment on individual cases due to the Canadian Privacy Act. ”
The couple told CBC News that this is at odds with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Garcia Prieto said friends and family back in Costa Rica cannot believe Canada would have such backwards rules.