Bid to reunite Pakistani family rejected

A Canadian Federal Court judge has upheld the deportation of a Pakistani couple seeking to be reunited with their children on humanitarian grounds.
Seema Sheikh, right, talks with her five-year-old daughter, Sabrina, in July 2009. Seema and her husband left the girl in the care of her two adult siblings that month after a judge refused a stay of deportation. ((CBC))
A Canadian Federal Court judge has upheld the deportation of a Pakistani couple seeking to be reunited with their children on humanitarian grounds.

Sabir and Seema Sheikh were deported to the U.S. in July 2009, after nine years as refugees in Canada, leaving their two adult children and toddler behind in Montreal.

The couple were ordered expelled from Canada after authorities discovered they lied on their refugee application about how long they lived in the United Arab Emirates prior to arriving in North America.

The Pakistani nationals had actually lived in the U.A.E. for 20 years, not three as they had originally declared, a fact their former son-in-law revealed to authorities after his ex-wife accused him of spousal abuse.

They would like to return to Montreal so they can raise their five-year-old daughter, who was born in Canada, and be with their two adult children, who are university students, said their lawyer, Stewart Istvanffy.

Family says they face threats

The couple had argued that they face political persecution in Pakistan as well as the threat of violence from their daughter's ex-husband.

The man was deported to Pakistan after he was convicted of spousal abuse.

"He has phoned [the family] here and he phoned people that they know in Singapore to say that he has hired gunmen to kill [his ex-wife] and [her] father if they are sent back," said Istvanffy.

The family should not be punished for the fact that their father lied to get into the country, he said.

"People who fear for their lives and are running from torture, running from severe persecution, will often feel that they need to lie to get protection," said Istvanffy.

But in a ruling handed down on June 1, Federal Court Justice Yvon Pinard upheld the couple's deportation.

"The decision-maker's finding that the principal applicant does not face a risk of return due to his political opinion is not unreasonable in light of all of the evidence," Pinard wrote in the ruling.

Deportation of children to be reviewed

The judge did however order a review of the deportation order for the Sheikhs' two adult children, Ashra and Sami.

"These children who came as dependents to their father's refugee claim have lived in Canada for over a decade and should be uniquely considered," he said.

The family's lawyer said he is quite confident that the two will be allowed to stay, given the children's history in Canada and the threat of violence faced by Ashra should she return to Pakistan.

In the meantime, Istvanffy said the children's parents may still find a way to get back into the country.

"We're going to appeal to the Quebec Minister of Immigration to give Sabir and his wife a Quebec selection certificate so that they could be able to come back to Canada," he said.

The Sheikhs' lawyer, Stewart Istvanffy, says the family should be allowed to stay together in Canada. ((CBC))

Another of the couple's adult children, a daughter living in Ontario who has obtained landed immigrant status, could also sponsor their immigration application, he said.

The couple should be allowed to return to Montreal look after their five-year-old daughter, Sabrina, who is currently being cared for by Ashra and Sami, Istvanffy said.

"Really, there is a humanitarian crisis in Canada in these types of situation," said Istvanffy. "In most places in the western world — if you have children born in France or Britain, for example — they will almost never send you back to your country of origin unless you've committed a sort of horrendous crime or are a danger to the public."

While her younger sister remains "a very, very brave girl," Ashra Sheik said that she has little faith that her family can be reunited.

"I am not so hopeful," she told CBC Radio's Daybreak on Wednesday. "I trusted the system the first time and I was rejected — and this time too."