Deaf Persona Non Grata

By Miguel Aguayo
A picture of Jazmine and Karen Talosig

Jazmine Talosig and her mom.

Jazmine Talosig, by all accounts, is a bright young girl that loves photography, dancing, cooking and helping out at home while her mother, Karen, works up to 80 hours a week as home care worker helping elderly persons and those with physical disabilities live independent lives.

Jasmine sounds like a typical teenager with a lot going for her but the Government of Canada doesn’t want her to live here.

Like most people wishing to immigrate to Canada, Karen Talosig wants a better life for her family in this country. So Karen and her daughter moved from the Philippines to British Columbia though the live-in caregiver program and she toiled long hours to save up the money to submit an application for permanent residency.

After working to meet the eligibility criteria, providing all the required documents, and paying the application fee, Immigration Canada dropped a huge “NO” stamp on her application on basis that her daughter is “medically inadmissible” because she is deaf.

Yep, that’s right. She is deaf and the Immigration Canada doesn’t like that!

The given rationale was that Immigration Canada officials believe that Jazmine’s deafness could lead to costing social services $91,500 over the first five years after becoming a permanent resident. While this is outrageous, what’s even more unfathomable is that the rejection letter elaborated on this point by explaining that Jazmine’s deafness “might reasonably lead to her requiring social services costs (i.e., special education funding) would likely exceed the average Canadian per capita costs”.

Bollocks to this because, as a deafened person who immigrated to Canada in 1997, I’ve never been a burden on social service system as I’ve never required medical intervention related to hearing loss nor have I ever come close to becoming a social assistance recipient. What’s more, my being a deaf person has actually reduced the costs to social services rather than increasing the government’s financial burden.

Over the past 18 years, my deafness has given me the insight to help thousands of persons with disabilities become employed and leave social assistance through various roles that I’ve held during my career, including as a social worker, career counsellor, human resources recruiter responsible for diversity recruiting and a diversity/disability advocate.

While I do not personally know Jazmine and don’t expect her to have a career that replicates mine, from the hundreds of deaf immigrants that I have met over the years, I’m confident that the chances of her becoming a burden on social services – on grounds of deafness – is so minute that one would need a microscope to see it.

Even the Burnaby Public School Board and the British Columbia Provincial School for the Deaf agree that Jazmine is likely to NOT require special education funding.

The lack of a valid argument for prohibiting Jazmine from becoming a permanent resident leads me to believe that Immigration Canada’s decision smacks of audism, which is an attitude and belief that life without hearing is one with no future and leads to a life of dependency on programs and services. So rather than looking at Jazmine as a person with initiative and a future, Immigration Canada chose to perpetuate the stigma of deaf persons being unworthy, second class and burdens to society.

This is unacceptable and I call on Immigration Canada to do the right thing by reversing this decision.