(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

Robert’s column
Robert Barron column: Cameras on school buses a good idea

“I’ve seen kids have to run from cars”

Trying out a corn variety called “Midnight Snack, grown near Cache Creek, as well as my saved Bantam/Sunnyvee Cross (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Early sowing gets a jump on corn season

‘I’m planting three batches of corn, two weeks apart for a steady supply’

North Cowichan considers extending tax payment deadline by two months. (File photo)
North Cowichan considers extending deadline for property tax payments

A two-month deadline extension to Sept. 1 gets three readings

John Horn is leaving his position as executive director of the Cowichan Housing Association. (File photo)
John Horn leaving Cowichan Housing Association

Will take on role as executive director of John Howard Society in Nanaimo

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Island Health has confirmed COVID-19 exposures at Ecole des Deux Mondes in Campbell River on May 4 and 5, and at Mill Bay Nature School in Mill Bay on April 28, 29, 30 and May 3. (Metro Creative photo)
Two new COVID-19 school exposures confirmed by Island Health

Health authority contacting anyone exposed at Ecole des Deux Mondes, Mill Bay Nature School

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Most Read