The Current

Down syndrome discrimination based on misinformation, prejudice

Felipe Montoya and his family have been denied permanent residency in Canada because his 13-year-old son has Down syndrome. The Current shatters misconceptions with a reality check on the misunderstanding of the abilities of those with Down syndrome.
Nico Montoya, a 13-year-old boy with Down syndrome, with his mother Alejandra Garcia, centre, and his sister Tania at their home in Richmond Hill, Ont. The family was denied permanent Canadian residency arguing Down Syndrome would be a burden on taxpayers. (Mark Blinch/CP)

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In 2013, environmental studies professor Felipe Montoya landed a job at York University, in Toronto, and applied for permanent residency to relocate his family from Costa Rica to Canada. 

Canadian immigration officials rejected Felipe Montoya's residency application, arguing his 13-year-old son Nico would be a burden on taxpayers because of his Down syndrome. 

Nico Montoya, a 13-year-old boy with Down syndrome, plays soccer with his father Felipe, right, his sister Tania, second left, and his mother Alejandra Garcia, left. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch)

What followed was a long, drawn-out fight in hopes of reversing the decision arguing his son was being discriminated against because of his genetic identity. 

The Montoya case raises questions about how society views people with Down syndrome — such as they are sick or need intensive care — adds to a stigma that is not the reality.

The Current invited a panel to shatter misconceptions of Down syndrome.

Guests in this segment:

The Current reached out to  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for their response.  They sent us a statement which reads, in part: 

"Due to privacy concerns IRCC cannot comment on individual cases without consent...[However], Canada's immigration law does not discriminate against those with illness or disability.  It does strive  to find the appropriate balance between those wanting to emigrate to Canada, and the limited medical resources that are paid for by Canadian taxpayers."

"No particular health condition makes an applicant automatically inadmissible to Canada.Each applicant is assessed on an individual basis, taking into consideration the current state of their health condition, the probable prognosis, the anticipated health and social service costs, and the potential impact on waiting lists."

This segment was produced by Sarah Grant, Catherine Kalbfleisch and Vanessa Greco.