Time For Canada To Give Some Care
During a recent diplomatic visit to Canada made by Benigno Aquino III, President of the Philippines, the government of Canada announced that the Philippines was the top source country for new Canadian immigrants in 2014, ousting China and India to claim the top spot.
In one sense, this is not a major surprise. The overwhelming majority of Filipinos who have made the move to Canada display traits that are quintessentially Canadian — a strong work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit, humility, close family ties, and the list goes on. The Caregiver Program (formerly the Live-In Caregiver Program) and Canada’s Family Class Sponsorship Programs have allowed many Filipinos to arrive, transition to permanent resident status and, in many cases, sponsor family members to join them in Canada. Within the broader Filipino community in Canada, we have observed success after success of small communities that have flourished across the country.
And so it was with some degree of frustration over the last couple of weeks that I read a couple of stories in which Filipinos have been poorly treated by a Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Ministry that often lacks compassion and foresight when it comes to assessing certain files.
Take, for example, the case of Jazmine Talosig. Jazmine’s mother, Karen, came to Canada seven years ago to work as a caregiver and, at the same time, provide for her young family back home. Four years ago, Karen made an application to sponsor her now 14-year-old daughter to immigrate to Canada, but Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has, belatedly, rejected the application. Why? Because she happens to be deaf, and is deemed inadmissible on medical grounds.
The story made it to the floor of the House of Commons, where Liberal MP Hedy Fry asked “The B.C. School for the Deaf says the child is proficient in American Sign Language and it is no more cost to educate her than any other child. So is this the government’s new discriminatory immigration policy? That deaf persons need not apply?” The immediate response from the government was shameful, with Conservative MP Costas Menegakis accusing Fry of “playing politics with immigration cases,” adding that “highly-trained officers” overview immigration cases. (The fact that just a couple of days later the Toronto Star reported a “high error rate” in CIC’s methods is telling when one thinks of cases such as this one, but that’s a whole other story.)
It was an attempted muzzling of a genuine question from an MP trying her best to represent a constituent. If what Ms Fry said on the floor of the House of Commons is true and the cost to educate Jazmine is no more than it would be for any other child, and if that was the reason why the application has not been successful, then Jazmine’s case should not be rejected on medical inadmissibility grounds.
Consider also the case of Hazel Penullar who, as the Toronto Star reported over the weekend, came to Canada from the Philippines in 2007 as a live-in caregiver and applied for permanent resident status in July, 2010, as soon as she met the employment requirement. Today, she is still waiting to get her papers and be joined by her daughter, Denise, 17, and son, Jabez, 9, and says that it feels like CIC is ‘killing her softly’.
In neither of these cases should the fact that the affected parties are Filipino nationals be a positive or negative determining factor. Canadian law already makes it illegal for governments to discriminate on ethnicity, religion or nationality in immigration cases. However, application timelines of four or five years are unacceptable, particularly for those who are already making positive economic and social contributions to Canada. A timeline of four or more years that results in an unjust negative outcome for the sponsored person is even more unacceptable. What these Filipino applicants are asking for is a greater degree of transparency and procedural fairness. Is that too much to ask?
I hope that cases such as these do not erase the good will that has built up between Filipinos and Canadians over recent years. The Filipino community in Canada is made up of proud, hard-working individuals and families that give more to our country than they could ever take back. Let’s keep it that way.