Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Inexplicable Story

"Based on information submitted, it would appear that the child has never resided with his father or mother. It seems the child has continuously resided with his grandparents. ... It seems to me that [Sood and Bajaj] have already made a determination that the best interest of the child would be for him not to go to Canada."
"To uproot the child at this time and move him to an unfamiliar environment, in a different climate, culture and language would be very upsetting and not in his best interest. In addition, he would be living with unfamiliar people, as his lifelong caregivers would not be with him."
Canadian Visa Officer, Citizenship and Immigration, Delhi, India

"[Daksh] is living with (his paternal grandparents) but they cannot take care of him. He is suffering. We communicate with him through Skype but that is difficult because my parents don't know how to operate that. They call their neighbours to help them."
Bhavna Bajaj, 30, Aman Sood, 29, Indo-Canadian permanent residents
Aman Sood, left, and Bhavna Bajaj say an error on their permanent residency application prevents their son Daksh from joining them in Canada.
Aman Sood, left, and Bhavna Bajaj say an error on their permanent residency application prevents their son Daksh from joining them in Canada. Provided by the family

Reading the comments of the Canadian visa officer working in India with Citizenship and Immigration, evaluating visa enquiries to ensure that fairness and humanitarian needs are weighed and analyzed to the best of any individual's ability, within the measures outlined by Canadian immigration law, it seems as though the visa officer has taken upon himself the judgement that will impact on the life and future of a vulnerable child.

While such conundrums are part of the job of a visa officer, weighing and parsing details in evidence and testimony and applications, they obviously have far-reaching effects on human beings and one can only hope and surmise that proper training of people whose humanitarian instincts are well honed by exposure to best-practise decision-making in ruling on admissibility or lack of for good reason, in entry to Canada will result in empathetic fairness.

When reading details of this case, where young parents of a professional class with prospects of employment and in pursuit of a new life of aspirational fulfillment in Canada, it is difficult not to sympathize at the plight of a three-and-a-half-year-old child separated from his parents. If a plight indeed exists, since the parents saw fit to leave the child with its grandparents when they decided to emigrate to Canada.

Bhavna Bajaj and Aman Sood had previously lived briefly in London, England. It was while in England that their son was born. They returned to India with the child and when they made their decision to apply for residence in Canada they failed to disclose to Canadian immigration on their application the presence of a young son, nor their intention to sponsor him eventually to bring him to Canada to live with them. This was not an ignorant, unlettered couple, but a couple with professional qualifications.

It is startling to hear that any parents of a young child when applying for as important a life-move as migration from country of origin to another where they intend to live out their lives, would somehow fail to notify authorities that their family included a child. Their decision to leave their child with his grandparents on a temporary basis as they now claim, would certainly not have precluded their need to see that an official note was made of their intent to sponsor him at a later date.

When evaluating this couple's application years after having immigrated to Canada to have their son join them, the visa officer was of the opinion that the child seemed better off in India, living with his grandparents, in a "culturally and linguistically familiar" environment, rather than uproot him and send him along to live with parents he did not even know. While the parents say that the visa officer's knowledge is flawed in thinking the child never lived with his parents, they were in fact unfamiliar to him.

The couple's four-page sworn statement that accompanied their application to emigrate to Canada two years ago made no mention whatever of their child nor his having been left with his grandparents.  Bhavna visited with her son in September 2014 for four weeks. He was unaware of who she was on her arrival, but she says he is fully aware now who she is, his mother. On their landing in Montreal from India in January 2013 the couple said they were informed sponsorship of their son was too late at that point.

immigration Bhavna Bajaj Daksh
Bhavna Bajaj says she just wants her son, Daksh, to join his parents in Canada. (Photo courtesy of the Bhavna Bajaj-Aman Sood family)

They had not indicated before leaving for Canada, and after having been accepted as permanent residents under the skilled workers category that they had a child. Nor did they divulge their intentions. They say their online immigration consultant whom they had hired to work for them on their original application submitted in 2011 had informed them that they could apply for sponsorship of their child once they arrived in Canada.

It was the consultant, says Rahman, who filled out the necessary forms, interacting with Immigration on their behalf, and gathering the information from them. In return, Immigration points out that their application was received in August 2011, after the child was born. Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, family sponsors are required to name dependent children so that medical examinations can be done before permanent residency is granted for the family as a whole.

The couple, according to Immigration, had been informed on landing in Montreal they could state their intention to sponsor the child, but to do so would require them to return to India while a new application would undergo review. Alternately, they would be permitted entry to Canada as permanent residents if they signed a declaration form that they would fill in stating they would not attempt to sponsor their son.

Aman Sood immigration Daksh
Aman Sood says he cries every day for his son Daksh. (Photo provided by the family)

They chose to do just that; the latter rather than the former. But they say that agreeing to the latter was the result of their not fully comprehending the implications of signing the declaration. They were confused, they claim, as a result of hours of questioning by Canada Border Services Agency. To complicate matters the Federal Court ruled that it would not review the matter.

The resolution of this situation seems simple enough on purely humanitarian grounds. The anguish of parents separated from their only child should be sufficient to move authorities to grant the child's parents permission to sponsor him for immigration to Canada. There are certain rules to be followed, which this couple for whatever reasons of their own had set aside.

But in the greater interests of a child's future security within his intimate family, their oversight should be set aside.

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