VANCOUVER ISLAND: MP pleads with immigration minister not to deport elderly Sikh woman

Published: December 8, 2012

Surjit Bhandal, 83, surrounded by family and friends at the First Metropolitan United Church in Victoria on Friday, listens during a news conference discussing her deportation to India. Lyle Stafford/Victoria Times Colonist


Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Randall Garrison is calling on Citizen and Immigration Minster Jason Kenney to allow an elderly Sikh woman who has lived with family in Langford for four years to remain in the country.

Surjit Bhandal, 83, raised her nephews in India. Now those nephews are in Canada and want their aunt to be admitted to Canada as a “de facto” family member.

Three applications to remain in Canada have been refused and now Immigration officials want Bhandal to appear at a pre-removal assessment on Jan. 9. An order for deportation is expected to follow.

Holding a press conference was a last resort, said Garrison. The family was not comfortable going public, Garrison said, but they see no other option.

Garrison is asking Kenney to use his discretionary powers to either grant Surjit Bhandal permanent residency or a temporary residency permit.

“This is a case where humanitarian and compassionary grounds seem so evident, it is unbelievable to me that this case has resulted in a rejection,” said Garrison at a Friday press conference at a Victoria church.

Surjit Bhandal has lived with family for 45 years and has never lived alone. She raised Jasminder and his brother in India because their mother, her sister-in-law, has disabilities.

After most of the family emigrated to Canada — Jasminder Bhandal came to Canada in 1992 — Surjit continued to care for Jasminder’s mother in India.

When Jasminder’s father died in India in 2005, Jasminder sponsored his biological mother for permanent residency in Canada but he was not allowed to do the same for Bhandal because she was not a biological parent.

Surjit Bhandal came to Canada as a visitor in 2008 and has applied three times, and been repeatedly denied, for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Surjit has no family left in India except for an estranged sister she hasn’t seen for 25 years and whose whereabouts is not known.

The family’s old home has been taken over by squatters.

Jasminder, who works as a builder, is constructing a home in Langford with two bedrooms on the main floor that he hopes will be occupied by his two “mothers.”

His brother lives in Surrey and is an electrician.

“For the past four years, the Bhandal family has been doing everything in its power to demonstrate that they will take responsibility, complete responsibility, for Surjit here in Canada.

“They have purchased insurance, she resides with them, she’s in no way ever to be a burden on Canadians,” said Garrison.

Bhandal said in the 20 years he has lived in Canada he has been law-abiding and productive. “She like my mother. I take all the responsibility. She’s 83 years old and I don’t know how long she’ll live — maybe two years, maybe three years.

“I want to take care of her from every angle.”

Representatives of various churches are supporting the Bhandal family, including the Sikh Temple, the Anglican Church and the Unitarian Church.

“This case to me, and in my conversation with the Bishop, is a case we would support in terms of humanitarian and compassionate grounds,” said Rev. Scott McLeod of the Anglican Church.

He said that case should be an exception to the usual rule and qualifies as one that should be allowed on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Rev. Shana Lynngood of the First Unitarian Church said “sending [Surjit] back does no good for anyone —it would leave her alone, would leave this nation like it had let one of its own down.

“To what end would this woman be send in her remaining years of life to live on her own?” said Lynngood.

Surjit Bhandal should be surrounded by her loved ones, said Lynngood: “If that’s not compassion, I don’t know what is.”



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