The Measure of Canada’s Compassion?
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.