News / Canada

This woman's immigration application took so long she died while waiting

Shabbir Jaffer sponsored his mother to join him in Canada in 2007. The agonizing wait for family reunification ended in January, when the woman died of pneumonia in England, with the application still in process.

Shabbir Jaffer, right, says he and his family are "disgusted" by how long the sponsorship application for his mother, left, was in the system.

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Shabbir Jaffer, right, says he and his family are "disgusted" by how long the sponsorship application for his mother, left, was in the system.

Shabbir Jaffer applied to sponsor his aging mother to join him in Canada in 2007, shortly after his father passed away at their family home in England.

The agonizing wait for family reunification finally ended 11 years later, in January, when 80-year-old Nargis Anwar Jaffer died of pneumonia in a hospital back home — with the sponsorship application still in process.

“We are utterly disgusted at the long time it took to process the case,” said Jaffer of Richmond Hill, a retired businessman who moved to Canada in the 1990s and is a Canadian citizen. “This is completely unfair and unacceptable.”

The department said it could not comment on the case without the deceased person’s consent due to privacy concerns.

A native of Kenya, the elderly Jaffer moved to the United Kingdom to flee ethnic persecution against South Asians in East Africa. She had three children, two of them, including Jaffer, later moved to Greater Toronto.

Shabbir Jaffer, 60, said he submitted his mother’s sponsorship application in September 2007, at a time when the Canadian government’s immigration website stated the processing would take about 36 months. However, it wasn’t until April 2012 when the family received a letter from Canadian officials that the application was being processed.

In November 2013, the Immigration Department wrote to say his mother might not meet the requirements for immigration because “her health condition might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services.”

During a medical exam, a blood test identified a chronic renal insufficiency, suggesting the weakening of his mother’s kidneys would likely progress to “irreversible destruction” and she might require dialysis and a kidney transplant down the road.

“The provision of these health related services is costly,” said the Immigration Department in its case file on Jaffer obtained by her family and reviewed by the Star. “Waiting lists exist across Canada for patients requiring renal replacement therapy and/or kidney transplant; she will likely be placed on such list.”

In February 2015, the department rejected the sponsorship application. After another two years, the family had its appeal heard by an independent tribunal last March.

At the appeal, Jaffer told an adjudicator that his brother in England is an epileptic and currently employed, and hence unable to look after their aging mother, who had a cleaner and cook to help her. In Canada, she would be cared for by him, his wife and their two adult children. The family also offered to cover the elderly woman’s medical expenses.

At the end, the appeal tribunal sent the sponsorship application back to the department to be reconsidered, concluding that “there are sufficient humanitarian and compassionate considerations to warrant special relief in light of all the circumstances of the case.”

Last May, the Immigration Department requested Jaffer’s mother for a new medical exam, and again additional medical information as recently as early January. Two weeks she died in London after contracting pneumonia. She had never required dialysis.

“After 11 years of effort, thousands of dollars in fees first to the immigration ministry and then my lawyers, umpteen forms completed and submitted on time and at least three medical exams for my mother amount to nothing except pure heartache,” said Jaffer, sobbing.

“This is not how the government of Canada should treat its loyal, law-abiding taxpaying citizens. Something has to be done to overhaul the immigration system ... It’s too late for me and my mother but perhaps others can benefit from an overhaul.”

Natalie Domazet, the family’s lawyer, said the case is the perfect example of the consequences that delays in immigration processing can have.

“What strikes me is that the government created this category for parents and grandparents to be sponsored with the knowledge that this class would likely comprise of aging or elderly individuals, some with medical issues,” said Domazet.

“The Immigration Department ought to have known that processing times could have significant impact on the ability of these applicants to join their families in Canada.”

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