More MS news articles for Jan 2002

Degrading treatment

Jan. 10, 2002. 01:00 AM

Degrading treatment
Angela Chesters didn't want an act of charity. She wanted the simple act of dignity of being judged on her merits, not her disability.

The bureaucrats at the federal immigration department evidently don't understand that there is a difference.

They refused to grant permanent residency to the 44-year-old German teacher, who holds two graduate degrees, speaks four languages and is married to a Canadian citizen, on the grounds that she might make excessive demands on the health-care system. Chesters has multiple sclerosis.

The best they could offer her was a ministerial permit. She would still be considered "inadmissible'' but would be allowed to stay for five years.

"Everything Canada could have done it did, correct?'' demanded federal lawyer Debra McAllister in court this week.

"Incorrect,'' Chesters replied.

Incorrect indeed in ways that go far beyond the legal case the Federal Court is considering.

Chesters has launched a constitutional challenge, alleging that Section 19 of the Immigration Act, under which she was rejected, violates Canada's Charter of Rights. She contends that the legislation allows discrimination on the basis of disability.

Whether the court decides in Chesters' favour or not, the way she was treated is an embarrassment. It contravenes Canadian values and basic human decency.

Chesters' manifest ability to contribute to the country was judged less important, by immigration officials, than the possibility that she might someday need nursing care. The fact that she wanted to share a life with her Canadian husband mattered less to federal bureaucrats than her notional health bills.

It was only when Chesters threatened legal action that they tried to mollify her with a ministerial permit.

Her determination to press ahead with the case is admirable.

No individual who knocks at Canada's door should be subjected to such degrading treatment.
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