An open letter to The Honourable John McCallum

An open letter to The Honourable John McCallum, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship:

The Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) is providing this letter in support of Felipe Montoya and his family, along with the numerous people from around the world who are denied immigration to Canada because of out-dated and discriminatory policies and language regarding disabilities.

The record of successful immigration to Canada for an individual with Down syndrome is poor. As a voice for families supporting individuals with Down syndrome, CDSS feels that the Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) policy view of people with Down syndrome is obsolete, prejudicial, and in direct contradiction of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Canada’s current Immigration and Citizenship Act, states, “a foreign national is inadmissible on health grounds if their health condition might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services.” A fair and equitable review of any immigration application would focus on the individual contributions of the applicants, not generalities. Today, many Canadian with Down syndrome are going to post-secondary schools, working in competitive jobs, and when given the opportunity, are fully-contributing members of society.

A recent copy of a permanent resident visa assessment letter from the Government of Canada, stated: “The applicant has a diagnosis of mental retardation, in which case is one of the features of Down syndrome.” Down syndrome, in itself, is not a health condition, disease, or medical condition and should never be referred to as “mental retardation.” No one should be denied access to Canada based on the fact that they are a person with Down syndrome.

In March 2011, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Included in this convention (Article 18), it is clearly indicated, in part, that state parties, “shall recognize the rights of persons with disabilities to liberty of movement, to freedom to choose their residence and to a nationality, on an equal basis with others.” Further, it states that persons with disabilities, “have the right to acquire and change a nationality and are not deprived of their nationality arbitrarily or on the basis of disability.”

The Canadian Down Syndrome Society requests a review of the Immigration and Citizenship Act policy regarding people with disabilities, such as Down syndrome. We encourage the Government of Canada to amend it, to make it free of prejudice based upon stereotypes or inaccurate information related to the determination of Down syndrome. Discrimination of any person on the basis of disability is a violation of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person.


Kirk Crowther

Executive Director
Canadian Down Syndrome Society