Rules that sometimes bar sick and disabled people from settling in Canada are invoked more often than many people realize, according to Toronto-based immigration consultant. 

A professor at York University told Metro Morning earlier this week that he and his family are returning to Costa Rica after three years in Canada because immigration officials said their son's Down syndrome poses too much of a burden on taxpayers. 

Felipe Montoya had applied for permanent residency. He called the ruling against his 13-year-old son, Nico, medieval and barbaric. 

But David LeBlanc, of Ferreira-Wells Immigration Services, says he and his colleagues see similar cases with some regularity. 

"It happens with our clients about two or three times a year," LeBlanc said Tuesday. 

"It always makes us sad when we hear these things come back."

Big families help

LeBlanc says immigration officials will, when assessing an application, work out how much money a sick or disabled person is likely to cost Canada's health-care system and other social services. 

If it's more than about $6,000 or $7,000 per year, the applicants are given a chance to explain how that individual might live in Canada without putting an undue burden on the system — perhaps if there's a large family already here and ready to help out. 

Applicants with extended families are usually OK'd, LeBlanc says. 

But some illnesses, such as diabetes, pose their own challenges and reduced odds of approval.

"If somebody has advanced diabetes, [officials] will sometimes predict renal failure and all sorts of other issues," he said. 

Down syndrome is also a major concern for immigration officials.

"Anybody who knows the care required for people with Down syndrome, knows that they have got a real battle ahead," he added. 

Montoya has said he feels his family was unfairly targeted, and that Canada's system is biased. 

LeBlanc disagrees. He concedes that the system is "harsh … cold-hearted and mechanical," but says it's not unfair. 

"The system works on balance," he said. "But it doesn't mean that, in looking at each individual decision, that it doesn't seem harsh."