Politics

Government reviews 'cruel' case of widow who risks deportation after husband's tragic death

The federal government is reviewing the case of a Montreal widow who risks being deported because her husband died suddenly last Christmas Eve.

NDP MP Matthew Dubé accuses immigration officials of dragging heels on 'absolutely mind-boggling' case

Sophie Thewys had her permanent residence status rescinded after her partner Nicolas Faubert was killed in a tragic accident on Christmas Eve 2016. (Facebook)

The federal government is reviewing the case of a Montreal widow who risks being deported because her husband died suddenly last Christmas Eve.

Nicolas Faubert was killed Dec. 24, 2016, in a tragic accident, when his elderly mother struck him when she accelerated her vehicle instead of putting on the brakes.

That was just weeks before the final paperwork was finalized and approved to sponsor his Belgian spouse, Sophie Thewys, and her son Louis Pollack as permanent residents in Canada.

But when his death certificate was added to the file, the approval for Thewys's permanent residence was rescinded, even though the couple had a six-year-old daughter born in Canada.

An e-petition sponsored by Quebec NDP MP Matthew Dubé tabled earlier this year called withdrawing permanent residence status under these circumstances "cruel." Forcing them to leave Canada would greatly harm the child, it read.

The nearly 1,794 signatories urged Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to use discretionary power to grant Thewys and her son permanent residency.

'Looking into the case'

In a formal response to the petition, Hussen tabled a response in the House of Commons this week saying the case is under review.

"Thank you for bringing this case to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's (IRCC) attention. The department has noted your concerns and is looking into the case," he wrote.

"Unfortunately, due to privacy laws, IRCC cannot comment on specific cases without consent. There are mechanisms in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that allow cases to be considered under humanitarian and compassionate grounds, including an assessment of the particular circumstances and factors of the case that may justify, in exceptional circumstances, the granting of the relief sought." 

'Cardboard cut-out' response

But Dubé, who has been working on the file on behalf of his constituent, accused the government of dragging its heels instead of acting with compassion. He said Hussen made a "cardboard cut-out" response.

"It's just absolutely mind-boggling that we would find ourselves in this situation, and nearly a year later," he told CBC News. "Beyond the technicalities of the file, as you can imagine it's made the grieving process just that much more difficult with the family having to re-litigate the process over and over again."

Dubé said the case reflects a rigid, bureaucratic process instead of one that responded to the exceptional and tragic circumstances of the case.

The MP said Hussen should have been well aware of the case, because he had written two letters to the minister about it, including one personally hand-delivered in the House of Commons.

"At the end of the day, he's responsible for this department. So if you want to have a truly compassionate system that respects an individual like Sophie, then the minister should be accountable for that and should be making sure his department is doing everything in its power to make sure another person is not in that situation as my constituent is now."

Dubé is hopeful the case will come to a positive resolution, but he is considering options to mount more pressure on the government to make sure that happens.

A spokesperson for the minister's office declined to comment on the specific case.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kathleen Harris

Senior producer, Politics

Kathleen Harris is the senior producer for CBC.ca in the CBC's Parliament Hill bureau.

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