(Pixabay)

(Pixabay)

Canada must process applications for children’s immigration in six months: advocates

Global migration has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic

Ottawa should establish a standard of six months to reunite newcomers to Canada with their children, as many refugee and immigrant families now wait years, says a national advocacy group.

The long wait is unacceptable, especially for children who are separated from both parents, said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

She said parents who have been forced to flee as refugees end up in many cases leaving their children with a grandparent, another family member or even a neighbour in their home countries.

“That is a very vulnerable situation,” Dench said in an interview.

“Sometimes, they’re staying with their grandparents, who, we often hear … they’re not necessarily in the best of health. They don’t necessarily have the means to support the kids.”

Dench said many children don’t get the care they need and in some cases become subject to physical and sexual abuse.

Canada is legally obliged under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to deal with family reunification applications in a positive, humane and expeditious manner, she said.

Jennifer Wan, an immigration lawyer in Toronto, said parents who come to Canada as refugees usually flee persecution in their home countries.

She cites the case of two refugee parents who have been waiting for years to see their children who are still living in unsafe conditions in India.

The parents were granted refugee status in Canada in July 2019 and applied for their children to join them that October but they are still waiting.

“The father was attacked. His business was destroyed. The wife was also separately attacked,” she said.

“Knowing what they went through, they fear for their children.”

Wan said the parents left their children in the care of an elderly relative hoping that they would be safe.

“(Their teenage child) has been really frightened to even leave his house,” she said. “He was being followed. The house was being watched.”

Wan said the government should prioritize family reunification cases that involve children, especially when the young people are in danger or don’t have anyone to care for them.

Global migration has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic and the entire processing system has been operating at reduced capacity, said Alexander Cohen, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

Refugees face travel restrictions and difficulties obtaining documents including evidence of a familial relationship, Cohen said.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, we have prioritized processing of vulnerable persons, family members and those in essential services,” he said.

“We’re prioritizing applications from refugees sponsoring their dependants … and are also assessing the results of two pilot programs to improve processing for protected persons with dependants abroad.”

Wan said the Immigration Department has not been responsive to her requests to expedite processing of the children waiting in India to join family in Canada.

“Sometimes, I feel quite helpless,” she said. “When we send a letter to an immigration office, we don’t really get a response to know that it has an impact.”

Dench said about 35 families have contacted the refugee council for help in speeding up their children’s immigration applications and there are many more struggling with the same issue.

Many children are suffering psychologically due to separation from their parents, she said. “Some of them have clinical diagnoses.”

Dench said she has heard heartbreaking stories of children crying out to their parents and thinking that they are to blame for the fact that they’re still separated.

The psychological distress of parents in Canada is “absolutely agonizing,” she added.

“Many, many medical professionals in Canada have also written expert opinions on what they’re seeing: the physical and psychological impacts of the stress of separation.”

READ MORE: New pathway to residency for 90,000 essential workers and graduates: Mendicino

——

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Immigration

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Aldergrove Community Secondary. (Aldergrove Star files)
Noel Booth, Douglas Park, RE Mountain, and Aldergrove Secondary see positive COVID tests

As of Monday, May 10, 18 schools are currently on the Fraser Health exposure list

Email your cooking questions to Chef Dez at dez@chefdez.com.
ON COOKING: Chef Dez does parsley pesto

Pesto traditionally has fresh basil but it can also be made with another fresh herb

Langley’s Madison Sweeney a 5’8” forward who began her career playing for Walnut Grove Secondary, has signed with the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) Cascades women’s soccer team. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley’s Madison Sweeney signs with UFV Cascades soccer team

UFV ‘checks all the boxes’ for former Walnut Grove player

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

Elias Pettersson and the Vancouver Canucks drew a large crowd to the Abbotsford Centre in 2019. Canucks management hopes the crowds return for the planned AHL team this fall, and early returns are positive. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Canucks: ‘Incredible’ early interest for Abbotsford AHL tickets

Team has had a strong response to both e-mail information and priority ticket lists

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Most Read