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Immigration and Disability Discrimination - Round-table Discussion

Immigration and Disability Discrimination
Round-table discussion
April 6, 2016 at 6:30 pm
United Steelworkers Union Hall, 25 Cecil Street, Toronto

The Montoya family was recently deemed inadmissible for Permanent Residency because 13-year-old Nico, who has Down syndrome, might pose an 'excessive demand' on Canadian social services. Does this decision go against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guards against the discrimination of any person based on physical or mental disability? Historically, ideas of genetic defectiveness and social burden have been attached to immigrants. Do current immigration policies still reflect deep-seated racist, ableist and eugenic ideas? It is time for Canada to take a new look at its immigration policies. To discuss these questions are: 

Felipe Montoya (York University)

Hadayt Nazami (Jackman, Nazami & Associates)

John Rae (Council of Canadians with Disabilities)

Ameil Joseph (McMaster University)

Roy Hanes (Carleton University)

Michael Bach (Exec. VP, Canadian Association for Community Living)



6:30 pm - Introduction (Natalie Spagnuolo, PhD student in Critical Disability Studies at York University)

6:35 - Video “Inadmissible Nico”6:40 Felipe Montoya: Details of the Montoya family case of Inadmissibility because of Down syndrome

6:50 - Ameil Joseph: The practice of deportation in Canada for those identified as “undesirable”

7:00 - John Rae: Disabilities and Human Rights in Canada

7:10 - Roy Hanes: Historical continuities in the Canadian immigration system

7:20 - Michael Bach: Remarks on behalf of CACL (an advocacy organization for people with intellectual disabilities)

7:30 - Hadayt Nazami: Is the time right for a Charter challenge?

7:40 - Rick Mercer’s Rant “Canada’s war on kids with Down syndrome”

7:45 - Q&A

8:15 - Coffee



Felipe Montoya

Felipe Montoya was hired as Professor of Environmental Studies at York University in 2012.  As the James and Joanne Love Chair of Neotropical Conservation, Felipe has taught the Master’s course “Ecologies and Sustainability in the Global South”, and has directed the Las Nubes project, a permanent research, education and community outreach project based in a biological corridor in southern Costa Rica. Three years ago he applied for permanent residency to Canada. Last month he and his family were deemed inadmissible, because the 13-year-old son has Down syndrome with “Moderate Intellectual Disability”. Felipe will present the details of his case.

Hadayt Nazami

Hadayt is a refugee himself. He had to flee his Kurdish home town while still a teenager; he was recognized by the UNHCR as a Convention refugee and resettled in Canada. He has long worked as a human rights advocate, inspired by his own personal experiences. Hadayt attended York University, receiving an Honours BA in 1998, a Master’s degree (MA) in Political Science in 1999 and his Juris Doctor from Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in 2003. He was admitted to the Ontario Bar in 2004. He has practised law together with Barbara Jackman since 2003.

Hadayt specializes in immigration, refugee, all categories of inadmissibility, constitutional and national security law, with a particular focus on advancing issues related to human rights.  He has participated in many legal proceedings in all levels of Courts, involving refugee and immigration law, Charter rights and human rights. Hadayt has been involved in defending against the Security Certificates in the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal, and he acted on behalf of Ahmad El Maati before the Iaccobucci Inquiry, which found that Mr. El Maati, as well as Muayyed Nurredin and Abullah Almalki, were detained and tortured abroad with the involvement of Canadian government officials.

He has been active in advocacy for refugees from many communities including Tamil refugees who traveled to Canada by boat. He was co-counsel for George Galloway, in which Canada’s charter of rights for freedom of expression was engaged, and for the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF), challenging non-funding based on political opinion.

Hadayt participates in ongoing educational programs; he has taught at the Downtown Legal Services Clinic of the University of Toronto and regularly teaches as a guest lecturer at several Canadian Universities. 

John Rae

During the past 40 years, John has been a board member of many human and disability rights organizations, including Co-chair of the Coalition on Human Rights for the Handicapped, which secured the first human rights coverage for persons with disabilities in Ontario. John is a Past President of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), the Canadian Legal, Advocacy, Information and Research Association of the Disabled (CLAIR), and PAL Reading Service. John is now 2nd Vice Chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), and Chair of its Social Policy Committee. John is also a member of the Board of Directors of ARCH Disability Law Centre, Injured Workers Consultants, and the Executive of the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario. He is also a member of the Canadian Museum on Human Rights' Inclusive Design & Accessibility Committee, and the ODSP Action Coalition.

Ameil Joseph

Ameil Joseph is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at McMaster University. He draws on perspectives of critical mental health, postcolonial theory, critical race theory, and critical disability studies in his writing and research. One of the broad areas he has focused on is the confluence of criminal justice, mental health and immigration systems. He comes to this work with over a decade of experience in the mental health field in areas of assertive community treatment, community-based early intervention, supportive housing, crisis respite, and governance settings. Dr. Joseph has been instrumental in the recent establishment of Hamilton’s Anti-Racism Resource Centre. Ameil is also the author of: “Deportation and the confluence of violence within forensic mental health and immigration systems,” an historiographical post-colonial analysis of the practice of deportation in Canada for those identified as “undesirable”, published by Palgrave-McMillan.

Roy Hanes

Roy Hanes, MSW, PhD. began his social work career as the senior social worker on the Spinal Cord Injury Unit at the Royal Ottawa Hospital in 1980. Although his primary social work focus was providing individual, marital and family counselling to people with spinal cord injuries Roy was involved with inpatient groups, outpatient groups and family educational and support groups. In addition to his work at the rehabilitation centre Roy became involved in community organizing with people with disabilities and he is a founding member of the Ottawa Carleton Independent Living Centre.

Besides the social work and disability related work, Roy was a founding member of the Canadian Disability Studies Association and he has been an active member of disability rights organizations such as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (Social Policy Committee) and he has been an executive member of the Canadian Centre for Disability Studies. At the local level he has been a board member of the Ottawa Independent Living Resource Centre and he is a founding member of the Committee On Disability and Abuse. During his 18 years at Carleton University Roy has been a member of most committees which deal with the needs of students with disabilities. In short, Roy has 30 years of experience and expertise working in various capacities with people with disabilities.

Please join us on April 6th and show solidarity for disability rights and for the Montoya family.