The Measure of Canada’s Compassion?

January 3rd, 2013

It is a trite, but true, saying that the measure of a society lies in its treatment of its weakest and most helpless citizens. By this standard Canada comes up quite small, particularly when you consider the treatment accorded to one young and extremely vulnerable Canadian citizen.

Sabreena Shabdeen is in a precarious position through no fault of her own. She is a 17 year-old with significant autism and resides with her parents in Paterson, New Jersey. Her parents have an appointment with US immigration authorities in the coming days and face the prospect of being deported to Sri Lanka, their country of nationality. They have decided that, given the circumstances, Sabreena would be better off if she were to return to Canada, the country of her birth.

Canadian authorities are aware of all the relevant facts and, while they don’t deny Sabreena’s right to live in Canada, have done precious little to assist her.

Ontario Youth Services advised that there was nothing they could do until Sabreena makes her way into the province. How she gets there is not their problem.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, tasked with assisting Canadians in distress abroad, was just as dismissive. They suggested Sabreena apply for a Sri Lankan passport.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) refused to allow Sabreena’s parents permission to enter Canada temporarily for the purpose of participating in Sabreena’s psychological assessment and the establishment of a Life Plan by an accredited Ontario health service provider. They did this even though the health service provider advised that it was essential that the parents participate in the process because Sabreena, for the most part, does not communicate in a meaningful way.

CIC’s decision to refuse entry to Sabreena’s parents is based, in part, on the belief that they will not leave Canada at the end of their temporary stay. In the past, they had made an unsuccessful asylum claim in Canada. CIC’s decision is, in my opinion, a red herring because there are enforcement provisions in the law that would allow CIC to remove Sabreena’s parents, if they fall out of status.

The decision to refuse entry is now being challenged in the Federal Court, but is not likely to be heard and decided for a number of months.

Sabreena’s case underlines the challenges faced by Canadians with disabilities. As if life itself isn’t tough enough.

You can read more about this story in a recent Globe and Mail article.

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5 Responses to “The Measure of Canada’s Compassion?”

  • On January 5th, 2013, Anonymous said ...

    goes below western standards dealing with people with disabilities. Canada mandatory to take care of your citizens irrespective of race and color

  • On January 5th, 2013, Anonymous said ...

    What an unkind attitude to a distressed family . Does anyone carry the national identity when he/ she leaves this beautiful earth for good ?

  • On January 9th, 2013, singh said ...

    canadians r just behaving like some 3rd world is pity they call themselves advanced.

  • On March 15th, 2013, Gilles said ...

    I am a Canadian and ashame of Canada’s political behaviour and most specifically of some of those Canadians whom under the umbrella of atributed governmental employment take upon themselves to take these irrational and inhumain decisons. I wonder if this child was a family member of theirs, how would THEY react? Would it be with the same inhuman approach and irrational, let me doubt it very much! The actual government DOES NOT CARE for what the real Canadian culture is about, which has always been about compation, fairness and equality of rights and of which all CANADIANS are proud of and demonstrate across this planet. This present government has no heart and cares not about our true culture and compation. THIS CHILD WAS BORN IN CANADA and is CANADIAN and CANADA HAS THE OBLIGATION TO ASSIST HER IN GETTING HER BACK TO HER COUNTRY OF ORIGIN, CANADA! By denying access to her parents to travel with her to Canada they cover themselves under the Canadian Immigration Visa regulation stating that they (immigration officers) FEAR and are NOT CONVINCED that the parents will leave once they are in Canada and have taken care of their child’s basic needs. This comes as no surprise as this is the “CLASSIC” and habitual RESPONSE mostly utilized by the immigration officers to run away from their obligation and responsability. This is the perfect answer to protect themselves in whatever eventuality and In doing so they feel that they have protected this country and can sleep well at night! It is a real shame for us Canadians to see and live such inhumain behaviour from the part of those officers and goverment representatives (whom we pay for through our taxes) and who take themselves as ” Incontestable Judges” and whom feel that they hold the exact science of justice in human rights, what a pity!

  • On August 3rd, 2013, Anonymous said ...

    Really sad to read the story like that!
    There is no justice at this case!! And it is a big shame to the Canadian Immigration who treat other people like garbage! And don’t even try to look for fairness when it is comes for Immigration office to look at the case!! there is non of it!! As I said before no justice achieved at this case!
    God Bless those people who fighting this unprofessional Canadian officers and their system!!!!

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