Over the past three years, Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) Professor Felipe Montoya and his family have been waiting for a response from Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC) on their application for permanent residency.
As required for all applications, the family, including their son 13-year-old Nico, underwent standard medical examinations. These tests indicated that no member of the family exhibited ill-health. However, Nico, who has Down syndrome, was required to complete an extensive series of additional medical examinations. After completing these additional tests, CIC classified Nico’s physical disability as an illness and deemed him inadmissible for permanent residency in Canada.
Montoya and his family remain in Canada and have 60 days to respond, after which the CIC will make a final decision about their application. If the decision is negative, Montoya plans to appeal.
The notice of CIC’s decision has rallied the family to reach out to the public for support. The family made a video, Inadmissible Nico, which describes their case and takes issue with Immigration Canada’s classification of Down syndrome as an illness subject to Section 38 (1) (c) in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).
“Felipe and his family have my full support, the support of President Shoukri, the Faculty of Environmental Studies and Las Nubes donors,” said Noël Sturgeon, dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies. “We urge Citizenship & Immigration Canada to seek whatever flexibility they have to award Professor Montoya and his family permanent residency and avoid the loss of a respected professor who is leading an innovative conservation project in Costa Rica on behalf of our University.”
Montoya is currently the director of the Las Nubes Project, a rainforest in Costa Rica which was generously donated to York University by Dr. Woody Fisher. He holds the James and Joanna Love Chair of Neotropical Conservation, dedicated to protecting this rainforest habitat through an agreement with Costa Rica’s Tropical Science Center.
“Not only does Felipe exemplify the incredible contributions of immigrants seeking new lives in Canada, he is also an active leader in York’s and Ontario’s internationalization efforts,” said Rhonda Lenton, provost and vice-president academic, York University.
Montoya’s situation has caused an outpouring of support from the public and members of the York University community. He wishes to share his thanks to all that have reached out to him and urges any who are interested to write letters directly to their local MPs requesting that Section 38(1)(c) of the IRPA be reviewed for discriminatory content against persons with disabilities, in line with the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.