Mr. Speaker, my question has to do with the government's decision—and it was a decision—to deny access to an otherwise acceptable potential immigrant on the grounds of deafness, a decision that in turn points to a serious flaw in Canada's immigration system.
First, the reason given was that the applicant's daughter was medically inadmissible. The government has taken the position that any disability—deafness, in this particular case—can be grounds to deny a person access. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, in his response to my question, stated that they are waiting for:
...Mrs. Talosig to explain how she will mitigate the extra costs to the provincial health care system because of a medically inadmissible dependant.
Her daughter does not have a communicable disease or an untreated need for serious surgery. Those conditions might indeed be a reason to deny someone access to Canada, as the suspicion might be that the immigrant was merely trying to access our wonderful health care system. However, a disability, particularly deafness, cannot alone create a medical drain. In fact, many in the deaf community do not consider themselves disabled; rather, they communicate in a different language, such as QSL or ASL.
What of other disabilities for which access to our medical system is not the issue? Persons who can function quite well in a wheelchair, such as the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia or the member Montcalm, function quite remarkably and arguably are huge assets to their community. Are they somehow less valuable because they are in a wheelchair? Would a person in their situation be automatically denied access to Canada, despite their ability to function and be an asset to their community?
The decision by the government is part of a larger, disturbing pattern of behaviour toward the disabled. Although the government signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, it has not implemented its requirements. Despite promising in the 2007 throne speech to pass a bill guaranteeing that accessibility barriers would be removed, the government has never presented such a bill.
As an example of the government's failure here on the Hill, it installed security bollards at each sidewalk entrance to the precinct. Those bollards are 31.5 inches apart. Wheelchair users will have difficulty with that opening. The recommended gap width is 36 inches. In Ontario the absolute minimum is 32.5 inches, yet here on the Hill, it is okay to have 31.5 inches. As a result, wheelchair users cannot get in.
On the deafness front, the government has fought a case in court for nine years that shows its failure to remove barriers. A young woman has taken the government to court because its student loan system means that her education cost her twice what it would cost a person with hearing. It seems only fair that the system should be changed, as it discriminates against deaf people, but the government has fought her every step of the way.
I expect that the government will say that it is awaiting Mrs. Talosig's response to its initial decision in order to further proclaim on her case, yet recently she received a letter from the government saying that it is now under review. I am not sure which we are supposed to believe: the letter from the government, or the government's statements here that it is waiting for her response.
The person is deaf. She has no communicable disease and no medical issues per se. She functions quite well. If it goes beyond the medical system and into the education system, the family has already obtained from the school board word that it will accommodate her disability at no cost. As far as I know, she communicated this to the government long ago.
It rests on the government to allow her and her daughter to stay in Canada.