Oakville family's 'nightmare' parental sponsorship application fails after 7 years

An Oakville family is frustrated that their immigration application to sponsor their elderly parents to Canada dragged on so long that it was denied because of health reasons.

Family blames slow immigration system for their parents being refused entry to Canada

Joyce and Leslie Paget were ruled inadmissible for sponsorship in Canada due to health reasons (Courtesy: Lesley McAra)

An Oakville family is frustrated that their immigration application to sponsor their elderly parents to immigrate to Canada dragged on so long that it was denied because of health reasons.

Lesley McAra and her husband Pete applied to bring her parents here from England. They first started the process in 2009. Finally, seven years later, their claim was rejected.

'It was just one long nightmare'

Her mother Joyce Paget, 85, was heartbroken after years of sending paperwork to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, now re-named Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).  

"It was just one long nightmare, to be honest."

Leslie and Pete McAra, with her parents, Leslie and Joyce Paget, who they are still trying to bring to Canada, appealing a parental-sponsorship refusal (Courtesy: Lesley McAra)

Several years after Paget and her husband Leslie, 86, applied to move to Canada, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. That's what eventually ruled them inadmissible to Canada. A letter from IRCC reads in part that his health "might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services."

Immigration lawyer wants these cases sped up

Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann, who does not represent this family, says all parental sponsorships take far too long, for a process he feels should be the easiest in the immigration system; instead, he calls it an "obstacle course."

Mamann says sponsoring parents or grandparents immigrating to Canada is much less complicated than spousal sponsorships, which require proof of a real relationship.

"All you need is a birth certificate, a medical, and a police clearance certificate. That's basically it. I can't understand why that takes[an average wait time of] three years." 

Mamann recommends that immigration officials do a better job of taking into account reasonable health issues based on age.

'We just can't expect people in their 50s, 60s and 70s to be healthy like racehorses.' - Guidy Mamann, immigration lawyer

He recalls one person being refused for having varicose veins.

"We just can't expect people in their 50s, 60s and 70s to be healthy like racehorses," he says. "They can't play professional hockey." 

But at the same time, Canada does not accept immigrants with major health issues who could be considered a drain on the system.

Immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann has represented clients whose cases dragged on for years trying to sponsor their parents. (Courtesy: Guidy Mamann)

Mamann first asks parental-sponsorship clients whether their parents are taking any pills or have suffered recent medical problems.

"I'm thinking not whether they're healthy today, but in three or four years from now. Am I confident that they're going to be as healthy as they are today?" 

He's heard examples of families not being able to live together in Canada because of a health problem popping up at the last minute. 

"Well, everything is off now. Everything is off the table now. It's all over."

In the case of Lesley McAra's parents, her father's Alzheimer's diagnosis came in 2012.

She says at that point, they'd already spent years wading through a confusing, cumbersome application process, including many calls to a toll-free immigration hotline, each time with an employee unaware of their case and unable to access their file.

McAra says a number of times immigration officials seemed to lose or not receive documents, including birth certificates and her parents' marriage certificate.

"We'd rush and get things all ready and send it in and then we'd often get a reply back saying they hadn't received it, could we send it again?"
 
McAra says in one case, she even paid an $1,100 fee a second time, even though she already had a receipt indicating she'd taken out a bank draft to make the payment. She repeated the process, not wanting to be forced to start the entire application over again.

CBC Toronto requested a response from IRCC on Friday, Feb. 3, but so far the ministry has not responded, despite receiving permission from McAra and her family to access their file and discuss it. 

'You kind of have to apply before you're thinking of applying'

McAra and her family completed the forms on their own, without the assistance of a lawyer.

Since they received the denial notice, they've now hired a lawyer to help them with an appeal.

McAra has some advice for other people looking to bring their parents or grandparents here: "You kind of have to apply before you're thinking of applying." 

McAra also suggests using a lawyer right from the start. 

These are the family members the Pagets would like to be closer to by immigrating to Canada. (Courtesy: Lesley McAra)

She wonders if her family might be in a different position today if they had. The Pagets are here on visitors' visas, which expire in May. McAra hopes her parents will be able to attend her daughter's wedding in the fall. .

Joyce Paget is not looking forward to having to return to England. Her family here includes three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren here.

"It's frightening in England, being on your own. But here I feel really wanted, Paget said." 

About the Author

Lorenda Reddekopp

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Lorenda reports on national and international news, as well as local stories based in Toronto. She grew up in small-town Saskatchewan and spent three years reporting from Guatemala.