(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

Just Posted

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

Brad MacKenzie, advocacy chair for the ALS Society of B.C., says having research projects in the province allows people here to have access to cutting-edge treatments now being developed. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds research chair for Lou Gehrig’s disease at UBC

Pandemic has cut off patient access to international projects

Most Read