Brit blames job loss on Canada Post for 'destroyed' work visa documents

A British citizen working in Canada says he spent $25 shipping his visa renewal documents in a cardboard envelope using guaranteed Xpress Post, and he never imagined there would be any problem.

Documents showed up illegible and ripped in pieces, leading him to miss application deadline

Chris Smith's Canadian work visa extension application was returned to him looking like this. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

A British citizen working in Canada says he spent $25 shipping his visa renewal documents in a cardboard envelope using guaranteed Xpress Post, and he never imagined there would be any problem.

Chris Smith, 33, has worked for the past year as a communications co-ordinator for a hydro construction company and was requesting an extension to his Canadian temporary work visa.

But on March 19, he says, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada called him to say the documents showed up damaged.

In his mind, he pictured a smudge on a page or a minor rip that didn't meet stringent government requirements; instead, he was shocked by what was returned to him in the mail.

"This is not damaged, this is what can only be described as destroyed," he said, pointing to the torn, water-damaged pages inside a clear plastic envelope. "It's illegible. Pages are missing. There's nothing that could even be regarded as an application."

Smith said the documents he sent were destroyed by Canada Post. (Chris Smith)

Smith's horror story with Canada Post is one of several CBC Toronto has received from readers frustrated by mail delivery problems that they say resulted in disastrous consequences.

People reached out following CBC's story about a young woman who lost her job opportunity with WestJet after her citizenship documents got lost in the mail twice, then delayed after a third attempt (keep reading for a surprise update on what's happened to her).

Post office: 'We apologize'

Canada Post responded to CBC Toronto about Smith's case. "Unfortunately, this item became damaged along at some point in transit. We apologize," a media relations person said in an email. "We've talked to the customer and have provided a refund." 

Smith was given a second chance by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. He says he was asked to fax his application, which he did. By that time, he had just days left before his visa was set to expire.

"In a panic, I accidentally forgot to sign it," he said in an interview at his home in Ajax, Ont. "They rejected it."

Smith doesn't want to leave Canada, since he's built a life here with his Canadian girlfriend, Elaina Eibich (and their cat Jasper).

He said he received a letter from the government on April 30 noting he had not signed his application, and that he had to resubmit the entire application and also reapply for a visitor visa.

Smith said he took the letter to an immigration consultant, who advised him to stop working immediately. The letter states Smith has 90 days to apply for a visitor visa or leave the country.

The company he worked for urgently needs to fill his position, Smith said, and he worries the job won't be available once his paperwork comes through.

An embarrassment for Canada

Smith lives with his Canadian girlfriend and would like eventually like to become a permanent resident of Canada.

"My desire … to live in Canada is really being squandered by a silly and stupid mistake by Canada Post."

His partner, Elaina Eibich, was appalled by what happened.

"It's shocking," she said. "It's very embarrassing" that this is what happened in the federal mail system.

Elaina Eibich says that as a Canadian 'it's embarrassing' what happened to her boyfriend's documents in the postal system. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

Smith is in the process of applying for a visitor visa. He also recently visited his local member of Parliament, asking for assistance. 

Canada Post did offer to refund the postage he spent on the package, he said, and then a day after CBC Toronto inquired about his case, he received a call offering a further $100 in compensation.

The amount doesn't come close to what this has cost him, he said. 

Smith has been out of work for weeks and had to borrow money from his parents.

"I don't like to ask for money from people to help like that, but I don't really have any other choice … to live here in Canada."

A surprise new start after postal pain

​In another case of postal difficulties, Aleksandra Mielczarek says things are looking up, weeks after CBC Toronto told her story about the troubles she had receiving her Canadian citizenship card, which was required for a job at WestJet.

She received a phone call from another airline, Porter, which had noticed her story and invited her to come in for a job interview. 

Aleksandra Mielczarek lost her job opportunity with WestJet, but is now scheduled to begin work with Porter Airlines. (Jon Castell/CBC)

She got the job and has her first day of training as a customer services representative next Tuesday.

"It's very exciting," she said. "I'm very much looking forward to the opportunity and definitely grateful for them even reaching out to me.… It's been awesome."

But at the same time, she still feels annoyed with Canada Post and that its staff didn't take her issue seriously enough.

"It's unfortunate," she said of her ordeal that went on for months. "I lost a couple months in salary and in position and possibly in advancement.… I can't necessarily put a dollar value on that."