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Sometimes, you suck Canada

I was 8 years old when I officially became a Canadian citizen. For our family, moving from Mexico, Canada was a land of opportunity. Literally. It was an opportunity for a quality of life that was not accessible to us in Mexico. My parents, as with most immigrants, were hard working. I remember my dad working full time during the day and evenings until 2 am. He would go weeks, months, with 3-4 hours of sleep a night. For my mom, the experience was similar (I have five siblings, so you can imagine that parenting alone was a full time job, never mind her actual full time work).

Canada has been very good to us. My dad in particular never tired of emphasizing the enormous abundance we were blessed with in Canada. Simple things like food, medical help, safety, and security were constantly acknowledged. Every time I complained about anything I was reminded how fortunate we were and how much worse things could be. We made numerous trips to Mexico to visit family, generally once or twice a year and the contrast in quality of life was stunning (at least in the areas we visited. I’m sure there are regions in Mexico where life is as grand as anywhere else). I lament, but am also thankful, that my children have only known abundance and blessing and not seen what life is like for most people in the world.

When I hear annual reports about Canada being the best country in the world in terms of quality of life, I believe it. I’ve been fortunate to visit numerous countries in the past decade. Canada is home and I rarely return without a sense of gratitude for what this country has provided for me and my family.

I’ve grown a bit irritated with Canada over the past several months, however. My sister lost her Citizenship card a few years ago and, when she was getting a Canadian passport, had to fill out a request for another card. That’s when things turned silly. As only an obtuse and dense bureaucracy like Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) can generate, problems started arising quickly. CIC required documentation, which my sister dutifully sent in over a period of years. Then, to her amazement, she received a letter in early summer, 2012, stating that she was no longer a Canadian citizen because she was unable to provide a record that my dad’s parents had been married. WTF??

As a result, she went from a voting Canadian to…a landed immigrant. She can apply to be a Canadian citizen again, but the process will take years and thousands of dollars.

Worse, my dad, who just turned 70, received his citizen rejection letter last month. He has voted in every election, town, provincial, and national since he had the privilege to do so. His work, as a truck driver, requires numerous trips into the US. In one swoop, his identity as a Canadian and related privileges are removed…by some fine individual in some nameless office that never directly interacts with humans but instead follows arcane rules that even a moment of common sense should override. He is devastated and facing an uncertain future.

From interactions with lawyers and others in immigration field, a disturbing picture is emerging: immigration laws and enforcement are as much at the whim of a bureaucratic official making random decisions as they are in a clearly defined set of laws. One lawyer mentioned a case where siblings received opposite rulings on the same case because it was handled by two different individuals.

I’m angry. Upset. Ashamed by how my country (so far at least, I’m waiting for my rejection letter) can treat its citizens without regard for the human dimension of their decisions. The pain and stress that I see my 70 year old father experiencing, at the hands of the Canadian government, after having spent more of his life in Canada than in his birth country, is inexcusable. And equally inexcusable is the dark, vapid, unknowable entity that is Citizenship and Immigration Canada. It is one thing to be subject to an injustice. It is far worse to have no clear course to seek its correction.

11 Comments

  1. As much as I share your feelings, we all now that bureaucratic institutions are subject to this kind of behavior. I know of many situations in which individuals have had great medical difficulty brought into their lives by equally apparently non commonsense decisions on the part of individuals in governmental health bureaucracies. As e-learners though, we need to start dialoguing about how to harness the power of the Internet to establish supportive digital communities that allow us to more effectively hold the isolated government employees who make these weird decisions more publicly accountable for their behavior.

    Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink
  2. Jon Dron wrote:

    Dealing with CIC gives one the strong sense of living inside a Kafka novel. I empathize.

    Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink
  3. George: The turn in your father’s citizenship status in particular is heart-rending, and mind-boggling to consider as you say that there’s “no clear course to seek its correction.” This story defies belief. Surely there’s consolation in knowing you’re very well-positioned to draw attention to it for your family’s sake and others’. Many will be following this.

    Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
  4. Jan Derksen wrote:

    This was brought to my attention by a friend of your family. For what it’s worth, I offer to all of you my apology as a Canadian citizen. I’m deeply ashamed of the treatment that our country has dealt out to you, and I truly hope that somehow there can be a positive resolution to this situation.

    Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Permalink
  5. DolorsCapdet wrote:

    I very much regret the situation so complicated that your family is living but I trust that will be resolved soon and positively.

    Friday, November 2, 2012 at 4:57 am | Permalink
  6. In recent years the department has reoriented in order to ‘prevent undesirables’ from entering the country and obtaining citizenship. It is a consequence of our current government, not something created by bureaucracy or the department itself.

    Friday, November 2, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink
  7. P. D. Carswell wrote:

    May I suggest you take this to the CBC and have it publicly exposed? That seems to be the only route to attaining fairness under the current government, particularly with regard to CIC.

    Good luck.

    Friday, November 2, 2012 at 8:29 am | Permalink
  8. A similar thing happened to my elder sister here in Australia. Having lived in the Netherlands with her husband, both of whom grew up in Australia, but we’re born in the UK and Holland respectively, she was refused entry when she wanted to return, on the grounds that she was not a citizen. Mum (Australian) spent 6 months amassing ‘evidence’ of her childhood, education & work here before they would recognize her. Had my father been the Australian parent, it would never have happened.However, that was many years ago & we have recently witnessed disgusting treatment of & disregard for asylum seekers & refugees here who are incarcerated in detention Centres. Governments the world over are being crippled by inhumanitarian policies drafted to keep the populist media & paranoid public happy, with little regard for our multicultural roots as a country. Much empathy for you & your family. Social media does have its uses in pressuring governments to redress ridiculous rulings such as in you case. As an eLearning community, let’s act.

    Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink
  9. Bon wrote:

    we have had a couple of dark and bizarre circuitous encounters with CRA in particular in the seven years since we moved back to Canada after a few years abroad – like you say, it’s the lack of clear course to seek correction that’s particularly hard. the facelessness of it all, more than anything, is dehumanizing. i am sorry for your sister and your father’s situation. and i do think Stephen’s right…the bureaucracy is not without direction from the top. things are only moving further in this direction and the human impact is likely to be far-reaching.

    Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  10. Jan Normandale wrote:

    I understand you cannot give specifics of date of entry and all the usual required personal details of your family’s history here in Canada. I will take it at face value that your family is a victim of a bungled government process.

    I would suggest you contact your local MP and MPP. I would duplicate all the documentation you have for all the family, father, sister, yourself and deliver it to their respective offices. I would also deliver a copy to the office of the Ombudsman for your Province and advise them that you are informing them so they have a complete file the equal of the one delivered to your MPP and MP.

    I would also provide sworn statements notarized by your lawyer.

    Sometimes neither legal process nor administrative processes work and another party must be brought into the equation.

    Keep us posted through this link

    Jan Normandale

    FWIW: I would also change the title at the top of the page. You don’t want someone using this against you.

    Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Permalink
  11. Alex P.Real wrote:

    I deeply empathize and really hope for a successful outcome to such a bizarre situation. Besides publicizing, please tell me if there is anything I can do.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 3:50 am | Permalink