Sikh family matriarch faces deportation to India following hearing in Victoria

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Surjit Bhandal, 83, surrounded by family and friends, listens during a December 2012 news conference discussing her deportation. Lyle Stafford/Times Colonist files

Jasminder Bhandal of Victoria refuses to give up the fight to keep his frail and ill “mother” in Canada.

The latest bid by Surjit Bhandal, 83, to stay in the country was turned down at a “pre-removal” conference in Victoria on Wednesday.

Although Surjit is his aunt, Jasminder calls her his “mother” because she raised him and his two brothers in India when their biological mother couldn’t due to a disability. Surjit has lived with Jasminder since 2008.

The date of Surjit’s deportation is expected to come within the next two weeks, but Jasminder, who’s been fighting to keep her in the country on compassionate grounds for the past four years, hired a lawyer to ask the Canadian Border Services Agency for more time and a judicial review.

According to Jasminder, Surjit needs her nephews’ help in her day-to-day life. She suffers from arthritis and a diminishing memory.

If their latest request isn’t granted, Jasminder will be forced to leave behind his life in Canada, including his construction company.

“We don’t have (family) back over (in India),” Bhandal told Vancouver Desi. “So I have to stay with her.

“If she has to go, I have to stop my business and go with her.”

Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Randall Garrison has been supporting the Bhandals’ battle for nearly a year and by Wednesday’s pre-removal conference about 5,000 letters calling for compassion had been sent to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

“I’m disappointed that the Immigration Minister didn’t act,” said Garrison. “The failure to recognize Surjit Bhandal as a family member, I think, is a mistake in law.”

“It’s a failure to recognize both diversity and extended families and the specific circumstances of this family.”
He believes Surjit’s “very serious health concerns” are reason enough to qualify for sponsorship.

“This is a very frail and elderly woman who needs not just the physical support of her family but the emotional support of her family at this point in her life,” he said. “The family has paid all of her expenses the whole time she’s been here and they will continue to do so … there is no way that she will be a burden on the Canadian taxpayer.”

Garrison is committed to the Bhandals’ cause and said he’ll do everything he can “to get the government to do the right thing here.”

“We meet all the requirements — I don’t know why the government is too tough,” said Jasminder.

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