Father pleads for entry to Canada to see his dying baby in Edmonton for first time

An Edmonton family is pleading with the federal government to quickly reverse its decision and issue a travel visa so a father can meet his 7-week old baby before he dies.

Federal minister Amarjeet Sohi has provided a letter of support but says case is complex

Eknoor's family hopes immigration officials will allow his father to visit before the baby dies.

A dying baby may never meet his father after the federal government rejected a Punjabi man's travel visa application.

A week ago, seven-week-old Eknoor Singh Samra was admitted to Edmonton's Stollery Children's Hospital and diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

Eknoor's mother, Kawaljeet Kaur, is a permanent resident who has lived in Edmonton since 2011. The baby's father, Gagandeep Singh, lives in Rauwal, Punjab and had his application to move to Canada rejected.  

This week, Citizenship and Immigration Canada also rejected Singh's later application for a temporary travel visa so he could visit his son. In a letter dated October 31, the father was informed his visa was rejected because the immigration official is "not satisfied that you would respect the terms of your admission as a temporary resident in Canada."
Gagandeep Singh and Kawaljeet Kaur are imploring immigration officials to allow Singh to meet his baby boy before he dies.

Fifteen families in Edmonton, who say they are financially well positioned to provide a financial surety, are urging immigration officials to reconsider reuniting him with his wife.

"She should have her own husband's support at this point in time," said Tarsam Singh, a close family friend who visits Ekrem and his family at the hospital daily. "Oh my God, just only tears. When you stand in front of him, that little guy, tubes all around his body."

Eknoor's condition deteriorated rapidly just over a week ago. His sweet smiles, healthy appetite and curiosity about the world around him were replaced by long periods of sleep.

A trip to the medical clinic provided assurances that Eknoor was fine but his condition did not improve. He's now on life support.

Pediatricians write to federal government

The baby was admitted to the Stollery on Oct. 27.  A day later, his pediatricians wrote to a Canadian consulate in India to request on the family's behalf that Singh's visa be issued "as soon as possible so that he can be at the hospital with his wife and son."

The letter stated Eknoor has been diagnosed with a congenital brain tumor and a malignant left temporal lobe tumor and that he would undergo brain surgery within a week. It provided assurances that extended family in Edmonton would assist with all associated costs.

"It is our hope that you will consider the stress and increased demands that Kawaljeet Kaur and Gagandeep Singh are facing at this time and that you will support this family in any way possible," the pediatricians wrote.

Four days later, Eknoor's physicians wrote a second letter confirming his tumours are inoperable and nothing can be done.

"The medical team is ensuring that Eknoor remains comfortable, but there are no other medical interventions that can be provided at this time."
Edmonton MP and cabinet minister Amarjeet Sohi says his office is supporting the family in this "difficult and tragic situation." (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The couple were married in India in January 2016 — a week-long "grand wedding" attended by thousands of guests, said Tarsam Singh. He said Kaur has since been back to visit.

Singh insists the couple's marriage is genuine, but immigration officials disagreed and rejected Gagandeep Singh's initial application to immigrate to Canada. 

On Friday, Edmonton MP Amarjeet Sohi, who is the minister of infastructure and communities, met with the family. They provided a second support letter for immigration officials.

"We want to be there to support them in this very difficult situation," said Sohi. "But this case is a very complex case."

Sohi said the situation involved elements he couldn't discuss "because this case has been in the process for the last number of years."

He added: "We are seeing what we can do."

A spokesperson with Citizenship and Immigration said the ministry hopes to provide a response Monday.


About the Author

Andrea Huncar


Andrea Huncar is based in Edmonton. She reports on human rights, immigrant and Indigenous communities, policing and radicalization. Contact her in confidence at andrea.huncar@cbc.ca