By Sukhram Ramkissoon
One of the fundamental principles and objectives as prescribed in Canadian immigration law is, “to see that families are reunited in Canada.” However, is this mandate implemented by all immigration officials?
Every day we hear, read, and see hundreds of frustrated spouses, parents, and children denied compassion in their bid to be reunited with their loved ones by immigration officials. So, I call upon the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to immediately ease the pain, frustration, and suffering of those affected by the denial from immigration officials to bring this mandate into reality.
Mr. Amir Gafoor is a Permanent Resident of Canada, born in Guyana, and a client of my son, Ronald Ramkissoon. Amir has given consent to use his name and facts to publish his frustration in not having his parents reunite with him and his minor sister who was born in Canada. Amir has exhausted all options in the immigration system to have his parents rejoin them in Canada, which is costing him hefty legal bills, has him running around in circles, and has been having nightmares for years, which has now left him and his sister in deep psychological problems and despair.
Here are some facts of the case:
In 2003, Amir’s parents, Mr. Ramzan Gafoor and Mrs. Savitri Gafoor, came to Canada and were granted Convention Refugee Status, based on their fears of returning to Guyana. In April 2006, they were granted permanent resident status, which included Amir. Alana was born in June 2005 and is a Canadian citizen by birth. In December 2010, Savitri applied for Canadian Citizenship and this application was refused in April 2019. During this time, Canada Border Services initiated a Cessation Proceeding because the Gafoors returned to Guyana after obtaining residence in Canada as Convention Refugees. The Refugee Protection Division determined in January 2019, that the Gafoors lost their permanent residence since they voluntarily returned to Guyana – a country from which they were granted protection in Canada. Consequently, their status was revoked, and they were deported from Canada in June 2019. Young Alana was forced to remain in Canada with her grandparents.
At the time of deportation, Amir was 22 years old, enrolled at York University in Computer Science, working at Scotiabank on a part-time basis, and his 14-year-old sister had just graduated from a school in Pickering, Ontario. The Gafoor’s former counsel submitted a Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) application in February 2019. In May 2019, Amir’s parents applied for a work permit and temporary resident permit which was refused in October 2019. In April 2020, Ronald’s office was retained wherein he updated the pending H&C application, citing compelling evidence and submissions.
Unfortunately, the removal orders were executed, and they were deported from Canada. Upon their arrival in Guyana, they claimed that they were detained by Airport officials and were treated horribly before being released. While Amir was in Guyana, through Ronald’s office, he applied for a student visa and Authorization to Return to Canada (ARC) – which was approved. Amir returned to Canada as a student in February 2020 to complete his studies at York University.
While the Gafoor’s lived in Canada, they were upstanding members of the community, productive and hardworking residents who contributed to Canadian society. They never sought any type of Government assistance nor were involved in any criminal activities; their only shortcomings were returning to their country, Guyana. They were unaware of the impact it could cause, which resulted in the loss of their status in Canada.
When Amir returned to Canada, he moved back to their family home, which his father purchased in 2013, and took full responsibility for his little sister who was fourteen years old. Amir faced immense hardships such as filling the role of their parents to his young sister. Alana was greatly affected by her parents removal; she developed severe psychological problems and sought and is receiving medical treatment.
Amir shared that he labours daily to maintain both his and his sister’s wellness. He says that he is not able to live his life independently as he should. Regrettably, in August 2020, his parents’ applications under H&C grounds were denied. However, with the assistance of Ronald Ramkissoon, Amir received an approval in principle while he was a holder of a student permit.
In September 2020, Amir retained a prominent immigration lawyer who filed a judicial review application on behalf of Amir’s parents which resulted in the Department of Justice (DOJ) consenting to address in January 2021. In the meantime, Alana was becoming suicidal – she slashed her wrist, which resulted in hospitalization, depression, and mental care. Amir believes her sufferings are a result of the forced absence of her parents’ love, guidance, and companionship. Amir and Alana have been directly affected by this negative decision and he continues to advocate for his parents to return to Canada in light of section 3(d) of IRPA, which is “to see families reunited.”
In the settlement letter from the DOJ, it was agreed that Amir’s parents would file a notice of discontinuance, the negative H&C decision would be set aside, and the application would be re-determined by a different officer. They waited for a long time for a decision and when their lawyer threatened to take legal steps, IRCC responded with a refusal letter on the 23rd of September 2023. Amir is now going through another lengthy and costly battle to have the decision set aside.
The courts have repeatedly stated that an officer’s decision should reflect whether an applicant’s circumstances “would excite a reasonable person in a civilized community a desire to relieve the misfortunes of another.” The decision maker is also required to place themselves in an applicant’s shoes.
This case cries out for compassion as Amir’s parents are not criminals who have successfully established themselves in Canada, and their only fault was returning to their home country after obtaining permanent residence as Convention Refugees.
H&C cases, by definition, should be looked at with humanity and compassion, especially involving children, and there are no other inadmissibilities. If you agree, please contact your Member of Parliament “MP”, and let them know about this case, as we must rally and publicize this injustice experienced by the Gafoor family.
SUKHRAM RAMKISSOON is a member of CICC and specializes in Immigration Matters at No. 3089 Bathurst Street, Suite 219A, Toronto, Ontario, Phone 416 789 5756.