A Seamless Approach to Service Delivery in Legal Aid: Fulfilling a Promise or Maintaining a Myth?

Appendix A: The Immigration Group: An Integrated Approach to Casework, Law Reform and Community Development

The Immigration Group targeted a number of important areas for law reform in the last year. They include: refugee protection; family reunification; discrimination against immigrant women; sponsorship breakdown; rights of domestic workers.

The case of the S** family illustrates our integrated approach to casework, law reform and community development. The issue is one of family reunification and Canada's treatment of immigrants with disabilities. The S** family were wrongly denied the opportunity to apply for landed immigrant status under the Administrative Review Program of 1986, on the basis that, because young M. S** has Down Syndrome, the family would be found inadmissible, and thus there was no point processing the application.

The Immigration Act states that people with disabilities and their families will be denied landed immigrant status if two doctors (neither of whom examine the disabled person) decide the person could cause "excessive demand" on "health or social services". This provision applies despite the fact that the family meets all other requirements.

The only alternatives a family which finds itself in this situation has are

  1. abandon their efforts to be come landed;
  2. abandon the disabled family member.

Parkdale represents the S** family in a challenge to the law. We are going to Federal Court to argue that the refusal in the S** case is wrong, and that the provision of the Immigration Act violates s. 15 of the Charter of Rights because it discriminates against people on the basis of their disability.

Alongside the court challenge, the Immigration Group is building support for the reform of this discriminatory law among immigrant and disabled peoples' community groups, and we have formed a group for immigrant parents whose disabled children are subjected to this discrimination. The group is important for information sharing and for mutual support, so that families do not feel isolated and alone. It will shortly begin a public campaign to press for the law to be changed.

The integrated approach to law reform - both legal and political advocacy on behalf of our clients along with support services they need, is a strategy for fighting discrimination and injustice which makes the most of Parkdale's resources and fulfills our mandate to work for social change.

Jacqui Greatbatch
Staff Lawyer
Immigration Law Group