Roundtable examines immigration and disability discrimination with focus on FES Professor Felipe Montoya

Professor Montoya takes Nico for a piggyback through the Costa Rican rainforest
Professor Montoya takes Nico for a piggyback through the Costa Rican rainforest

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.

However, 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? The topic will be discussed during the Round-Table Discussion on Immigration and Disability Discrimination taking place April 6 from 6:30 to 8:30pm at the United Steelworkers Union Hall, 25 Cecil St., Toronto.

Historically, ideas of genetic defectiveness and social burden have been attached to immigrants. Do current immigration policies still reflect deep-running ableist, racist and eugenic assumptions?

It is time for Canada to take a new look at its immigration policies.

Discussants participating in the roundtable include:

• Felipe Montoya (York University) – Montoya is an environmental anthropologist hired as professor of Environmental Studies at York University in 2012. As the James and Joanne Love Chair of Neotropical Conservation, he 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.

• Hadayt Nazami (Senior Lawyer, Jackman, Nazami & Associates) – Nazami is a refugee who fled 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. He 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. Nazami specializes in immigration, refugee, all categories of inadmissibility, constitutional and national security law, with a particular focus on advancing issues related to human rights.

• John Rae (Council of Canadians with Disabilities) – During the past 40 years, Rae 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. He is second vice-chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities National Council, and Chair of its Social Policy Committee. He is also a member of the Canadian Museum on Human Rights’ Inclusive Design & Accessibility Committee, and the ODSP Action Coalition.

• Ameil Joseph (McMaster University) – Joseph is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at McMaster University. 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. Joseph is the author of: Deportation and the confluence of violence within forensic mental health and immigration systems, published by Palgrave-McMillan.

• Roy Hanes (Carleton University) – Hanes began his social work career as the senior social worker on the Spinal Cord Injury Unit at the Royal Ottawa Hospital in 1980. Besides social work and disability related work, Hanes was a founding member of the Canadian Disability Studies Association and he has been an active member of disability rights organizations. In short, Hanes has 30 years of experience and expertise working in various capacities with people with disabilities.

• Michael Bach (Canadian Association for Community Living) –Bach is an adjunct professor of Disability Studies at Ryerson University, executive vice-president at the Canadian Association for Community Living and managing director of IRIS – Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society. For over 25 years he has undertaken research and development in Canada and internationally on ways to advance the full inclusion and human rights of persons with intellectual disabilities. His publications cover disability theory, policy and practice in a range of areas including legal capacity, education, employment, and funding and delivery of community-based services.

Natalie Spagnuolo, a doctoral student at York University, will provide the introductory remarks.

For more information, contact