Countdown: Six Weeks to Go


Today marks six weeks to go before the hearing date.  While I’m sure the time will fly by (after all, that means we’re over 50% of the way since leave was granted) living it up close and personal is always an interesting experience.  Nothing like waiting months and years for something that is so fundamental to life.

Indeed, I often find myself reflecting upon the whole process, wondering if I would have been far wiser to have never pursued immigration in the first place.  A look over at my spouse (being domestic right now, putting away laundry) assures me that the net outcome really is a good one, but absent that I seriously doubt I’d reach the same conclusion.  Of course, underlying the court battle is my strong desire to prevail “on my own” – to basically not burden my spouse with this ongoing obligation to be responsible for me.  While I don’t expect anything to happen, we never do plan for these sorts of things, do we?

The past week has been a good one overall, though.  I pointed out the observation in my previous post that the PHSP would have overcome the medical officer’s objection to my attorney who thought that was an important point that he would incorporate into his memorandum (the memorandum is due on 18 September).   I’ve also had the opportunity to interact with some other people who have been through the same process as me.  One of them had a hearing yesterday (judgment reserved – but it was only 30 minutes, suggesting there really wasn’t much argument.  Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen).  The other won his case back in 2009 but was ultimately unable to successfully immigrate to Canada (from what I was told, this is because they couldn’t prove something that could only be determined once they had come to Canada.)

I took the past two days off as well.  My spouse and I enjoyed a pair of wonderful days – late summer days, enjoying some time together – a rarity these days.  It has given me a time to reflect and consider the nuances of this process.  One thing I find myself wondering is if much of this “process” is really a mechanism by which Canadian Immigration can enshrine biases and discriminatory practices.  Certainly both cases I learned about have suggested that this might be the case, but of course two cases do not prove a pattern, either.

Ironically, what helped me crystallize this thinking was a news article I read on The Huffington Post.  It was the story of a child with Down’s Syndrome who was denied boarding on an American Airlines flight.  The airline claimed the pilot was concerned about security.  It made me realize that discrimination is so damned hard to prove precisely because it can be disguised in the clothing of “rational process”.  Thus, they agree to allow someone into Canada but only if they can do something prior to granting permission that can only be done after they’ve been admitted to Canada.  “So sorry, you are still not admissible to Canada.”

This passes an initial inspection as “due process” but fails to withstand scrutiny.  What is particularly ironic is that immigration is about encouraging diversity – but only within a very limited range.  There’s nothing wrong with having such a system, but it would seem to be disingenuous to dress it up in the guise of an equitable system.

There is a certain inherent hypocrisy in the system.  While I had hoped that my case might serve to shine a bright light into the dismal innards of the system, the reality seems to be that this isn’t likely.  The system is self-protecting.  In my case, they will point to the fact that I can always enter the system through a different mechanism and thus avoid the possibility of examining the inherent bias in the system itself.  While I can say that this is a shame for the process overall, I have selfish motivations here – I want the process to end.

Six weeks from today I’ll be allowed to watch them argue my fate.  Some time after that I’ll learn the final outcome of my case.

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Silence can be deafening


Silence SpeaksWell it’s now evening on Wednesday.  My attorney presumably returned from vacation yesterday and yet, two days later, I’ve heard nothing from him with respect to the odd filings I mentioned previously.

I try hard not to make myself a pest – I did send two e-mails, and I thought that I would hear from him upon his return. While I’m sure he had other matters awaiting his attention when he got back, I don’t expect he has a large number of pending judicial review applications before the Federal Court of Canada – he does seem to argue one or two per year.

Maybe I’m just being impatient.  For him this is just one case of many – it’s a job for him.  For me it is admittedly a bit of an obsession, but then again it is my life here.  I’ve pointed out that three plus years is a long time for anyone to put their life on hold awaiting the outcome of a bureaucratic process.  I have also pointed out previously how dehumanizing this process is, so perhaps this is just another reflection of that reality.

At any rate, now I wait.  In one week the next deadline is upon us – the Government’s deadline for filing any additional affidavits.  I’m not sure if they will submit anything.  Next month will be deadlines for additional legal briefs to be filed.  If there are any potential parties wishing to intervene on either side, that would be the point at which they would do so.

So I shall sit here and wait and try to enjoy the silence.

Reflections on the Past


High wheeler Bicycle ImageIn general, I tend to focus on the actual process in which I’ve become embroiled, but sometimes I do reflect on the past couple of years and wonder if this process was really all worth it. Yesterday I spent time going through and finding my bicycle gear.  I have been a bicycle enthusiast for many years but have not ridden in the past couple of years.

As it turns out, for all that Vancouver is a beautiful city it does have some peculiar issues.  For example, in 2010 over 1500 bicycles were stolen in the City of Vancouver. I’ve experienced this personally, having had two bicycles stolen from me since I moved here.  The first was a Klein Pulse Comp that I had modified a bit by adding hydraulic breaks.  I’d had it for over 10 years when I brought it up with me to Vancouver.   The building in which I bought my condo had secure bike rooms – key fob controlled, with facilities to lock up your bike.  I put it in there.  Within two weeks it disappeared.  While I realize it was “just a bike” I’d had it a long time, put many miles on it, and was really upset that someone else thought I was such a despicable human being they’d take it.

I bought a replacement bike in March 2009.  It was a full suspension bike, a Specialized Stumpjumper which they convinced me to buy at Simon’s Bike Shop here in Vancouver.  in addition, I bought two locks, both from Kryptonite.  One was literally a hardened steel chain with a small hardened lock.  The other was a U-Lock.  I used both of them to lock up my bike – in the secure bike room.  This time I picked one of the two bike rooms that had never experienced a break-in.

That worked until June 2009 – just before I started my odyssey through the maze of immigration, in fact.  However at the end of May, 2009 the strata council (those are the elected people who make up rules for the building) ordered that those two bike rooms be closed because they wanted to turn them into offices.  While I pointed out to them, in writing, that this would violate the Vancouver building code, they chose to move forward with it.  Four days after I relocated my bike into a different locker it disappeared.  The thief was considerate enough to leave behind pieces of the lock.  Since I was riding 3-4 times per week, I was able to clearly identify when this must have happened.  I still remember the feeling of going downstairs to go for my ride, only to find that my 3 month old bike was gone.

The door was fob controlled, it was a small room, I had taken care to secure my bike so that it was not even visible from the door.  Thus, the building manager was able to review the logs and determine who had entered that bike room during the short period in question.  After a bit of questioning, he found someone who witnessed the theft of my bike but was otherwise uninvolved.  Ultimately, it led to the arrest of the person who did steal the bike.

I bought a replacement within days.  I didn’t want to let the thief get the better of me.  But I also decided that I wasn’t going to ever leave my bike in one of the security controlled rooms either.  Initially I kept my bike in the apartment – but it’s small, the strata rules prohibited leaving the bike on the balcony as well as requiring that I had to carry the bike up and down the stairs in the building.  This really was a bicycle hostile building – they removed the bike racks in front of the building, cut the number of spaces for storing bikes by 50%, contravening local building code and adopted a series of rules that can only be described as very bicycle hostile.    So I started keeping my bike at my office.

Since I moved it to my office I’ve gone riding twice.  In three years.  As I was digging out my bike gear yesterday morning I realized there are parallels between my bike experience and my immigration experience.   Three years – that’s a long time to have something affect your life so profoundly.  And yet here I am, three years later dealing with both.  Was coming to Vancouver really worth this?

I still don’t know if I’ll be allowed to stay – the work permit renewal application has been submitted (or at least I hope so, as I made sure the attorney had all the paperwork on Friday.)  The judicial review application will be argued in mid-October.  I should know about the work permit renewal by mid-October.  I am hopeful I will have a decision on that quickly, perhaps by the end of 2012, but there are never any guarantees with respect to the timing of such decisions.  The judge could announce a decision the day of the hearing or I might not know until the decision is published.  Publication could be a week after the hearing or six months after the hearing.  Plus, there’s the harsh reality that only about 20-25% of applications are granted.  While I have convinced myself that I will be one of those 20-25%, I am realistic enough to know that there is no guarantee at this point.  Indeed, one possible outcome is that the court rejects my judicial review application but agrees to certify one or more questions of general importance, leaving room for appeal, which takes another year.

Living in limbo is surprisingly challenging.  If it weren’t for the fact I met and courted my spouse here, I know I wouldn’t do this again knowing what I know now.  So, in the end it is worth it.

Of course, what prompted this in the first place is that I dug out my bicycle gear.  It’s time to start riding again.  I just cannot put my life on hold forever.

 

BC Health Care revisited


 

BC Care CardBack in April I mentioned a Huffington Post article about a woman here in BC who had to give birth in a hotel here rather than in hospital because she was not yet eligible for provincial health services.

Since that time I have learned that in fact this really wasn’t the case and that in fact BC really is quite generous when it comes to granting medical care to those with PR applications in process.  Since I found this to be useful information, I’m going to capture it here as well in hopes that it will be useful to others in the future.

Bottom line: the spouse of a BC resident living with that resident in BC is normally eligible for coverage as well according to documents on the BC MSP website:

Most immigration documents, when submitted with the required MSP form, provide sufficient information for MSP to determine whether a person qualifies for benefits. There are circumstances, however,  where additional documentation is required. If, for example, a spouse/child has visitor status in Canada and his/her papers do not state “Case Type 17” or provide any other indication that permanent resident status has been applied for, the MSP form should be submitted with copies of as many of the following as possible:

  • a photocopy of any immigration document he/she may hold
  • any relevant letters issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
  • proof that the application fee for permanent resident status has been paid to CIC online or through a financial institution
  • the identity page of the spouse/child’s passport and any other pages stamped by CIC or the Canada Border Services Agency
  • a copy of the spouse/child’s birth certificate if he/she is a United States citizen.
  • pages one and two from the CIC e-Client Applications Status website (www.cic.gc.ca) showingthe receipt date of the application. (On that website, click on Check Application Status.)

The above helps confirm that CIC considers the person to be an applicant for permanent resident status, and helps MSP determine when, if appropriate, coverage should begin.

Thus, it would seem that had that woman submitted evidence they had submitted the application (payment receipt, evidence that it was received in Vegreville, AB) she likely would have been eligible.  Instead, the original point of the article was that she wouldn’t qualify until such time as she was granted AIP (initial approval).

I’d been looking at this recently in any case, because of the opt-out provision of the BC provincial plan (as far as I can tell, only BC and Alberta have such a provision, although hopefully if there are other options for other provinces someone will tell me and I can update this information).  For me that was important because it demonstrated one possible way out of the excessive demand argument and indeed, had there been [b]any hint[/b] from the visa officer that no amount of insurance would overcome the BC policy, I would have offered to opt-out.  All I received was a generic form letter – and the only text in the medical officer’s opinion that deviated from the standard language that provides no insight into the rationale of the officer was “This applicant’s medical condition is likely to require treatment that is expensive and publicly funded in B.C.  Although he has private insurance, antiretroviral medications are covered 100% by the provincial drug plan in the province of British Columbia with no payment from private insurance.”

Previously, this same medical officer (in a different case, with the same medical condition): “Admissibility is dependent on the visa officer determining if the clients will have access to private or employer based insurance”.

Thus my point – I’ve investigated insurance alternatives.  It’s not easy to [b]get[/b] insurance with a pre-existing condition but it isn’t impossible – there are actually brokers who deal with that sort of thing (albeit with restrictions).

Of course, now that’s a moot point – CIC didn’t communicate clearly, so there was no effective way for me to respond back to them.

 

 

 

Three Years


Three Years

Celebrating Three Years

I realized earlier this week that my immigration journey has now been ongoing for three years.  My attorney at the time submitted my application three years ago to Sydney, Nova Scotia to the “Central Intake Office” (CIO) responsible for doing initial evaluation of Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) applications for CIC.  Little did I know that three years later I would find myself with immigration unresolved.  If I  had, I think I probably would not have filed the application – no human deserves the disrespect and dehumanization that this process represents.  I wonder if it is as dehumanizing for the workers at Citizenship and Immigration Canada as it is for the applicants they are evaluating – I suspect that at times it must be – after all, each of the applications represents the stories of real people and you either have to distance yourself from their stories or you would be deeply saddened by those same stories.

I suspect my story would not have been one to pluck at the heart-strings.  After all, I’m actually successful – I am well-known in my field and successful.  I have traveled extensively, work with people all over the world.  One would think I am an ideal candidate – I basically enter Canada with my set of skills, my own customers, and a proven track record of being able to create novel and creative work (now I have four issued US patents and I’m working on more, not to mention multiple published books in my field, many technical articles, public presentations, etc.)  Technically I barely met the bar for consideration: I had the lowest possible score (67) because of course being able to set up shop on my own doesn’t count for anything in the FSW category (they give you big points for having arranged employment, but nothing for being able to create a new firm and bring your customers with you.)  I struggle by in my rudimentary French (I only studied three years back in High School and that was many years ago with very little intervening use since then.)  I only have a Bachelor’s degree, albeit with many years of experience.  My evidence of English were my published books, articles, talks, and the fact that I was born in the US in a household in which English was our only language (ok, American English, so it’s not quite the same as Canadian English.)

At any rate, here we are, three years later and the application is still not technically completed – after all, I still have a pending application before the Federal Court challenging the decision.  And of course, I haven’t heard anything on that either.  Since Monday July 2, 2012 is a statutory holiday (Canada Day) I won’t hear anything before the 11 week mark at this point.  Even though I have a second option (spousal sponsored immigration) I am forever bound by my unconditional promise to pay for my medication, should that prove to be necessary – I realize there is no legal mechanism for enforcement, but I recognize it as an immoral act to violate my own solemn sworn oath.

It is ironic that I now must worry about my sponsorship.  My spouse’s family is very unhappy about our marriage and is using every emotional tool in the arsenal to force a return home (where for them “home” means where they are, not where we are.)  I don’t expect that to happen, but I have to consider what I will do should it happen (of course, at the same time I am being as supportive as I can because regardless of what my spouse decides I know it will be for the best.)

If that does happen and the court decides not to hear my case (which seems likely at this point – it’s now pushing three months) then my plan is to go back to the US.  Sad, to be defeated and unwanted by both Canada and one’s own country – at least the US has no choice but to allow me to return.

We shall see what happens…

Wishing everyone a Happy Canada Day.

Minister Kenney and Huffington Post


Minister Kenney (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) apparently agreed to answer immigration questions on the Huffington Post website.  Sadly, I did not see the offer to answer questions soon enough so while I posted a question (a pair of questions) it was past the time that it would receive a review.  Nevertheless, I found the comments illuminating.  It is certainly clear that a fair number of those posting about their experiences with CIC came from non-native speakers of English, yet the anguish in their entreaties was heart-felt.

Many of the posts were from people experiencing the increasing wait times for sponsored spousal applications.  For example, in the past five weeks (since we submitted our application, in fact) the waiting time has increased linearly – ergo, there has been no reported progress on the CIC website.  I’m not convinced the CIC website is really reflective of the actual processing time, but it is the best source of information made available to us (I will post a bit more about our application soon, but for the moment let’s stick to the matter at hand).

I also found the statement from someone that “we should just shut down all immigration until the job situation improves” to be symptomatic of the feelings of some Canadians – that immigrants are “taking our jobs away”.  As I pointed out, in my situation I brought my own revenue stream, my own customers and have been able to hire existing Canadians to assist in my business.  I’d like to hire more, but to be honest I cannot legitimately make the case for doing so in the face of the very real possibility that I might not be allowed back into the country at the whim of a CBSA agent.  That would be a true nightmare situation – to have to default on my obligations to others simply because of my own bizarre situation.

So I will continue to muddle along.  And I hope that I have added a unique perspective to the discussion.

What is the cost of success?


I’ve previously mentioned the seminal Companioni case.  From that case, I was able to locate my current attorney.  I’ve also been doing quite a bit of work lately in New York City (recall that my client is physically located in the same building as the consulate that considered and rejected my application.)  Since Companioni lived in NEw York, I spent some time trying to track them down.

While I think I have, the process was far more challenging than I had initially expected – after all, these days it’s generally quite easy to track someone down.  Even when I found a matching profile on a professional website, I was surprised to find out that the person I identified did not allow direct contact (and this is a business networking website!)  That surprised me.  The same thing for social websites (e.g., Facebook).  As I dug deeper it began to sink in that there might be a high price for success: the rights of privacy disappear once the legal system is involved.  The details of who I am, what I do for a living, where I live, and my medical condition are all spelled out in a legal decision.  If it is unsuccessful, almost no one will take notice – and from my review of judicial review decisions most are unsuccessful.  Then again, most are refugee cases.

Companioni was succesful.  When I pushed my attorney a bit more on Monday about “where they were in the process” he demurred and said that I was pushing into an area of attorney/client privilege.  I’ve since offered up permission for my attorney to pass along contact information, but I’ve not heard anything.  A shame, but I suspect they may prefer their privacy.

I’m not always the sharpest knife in the drawer, but in this case it occurred to me that the reason for these things might very likely be that after the decision was made some people took it upon themselves to make the lives of Companioni and his partner difficult.  I cannot be surprised at such actions, given the extremist views of some people (e.g., Westboro Baptist Church and their actions.)

So now I’m wondering: will the cost of success (however unlikely) be so high that I ultimately decide it was not worth it?  If so, it really challenges me as to the basic nature of justice and the manner in which we execute it these days.  But then again, perhaps that is the goal: to provide us with an outlet that is so expensive regardless of success or failure that we will remain complacent and simply accept the fact that we are excluded.

That leaves me with a rhetorical question to ponder: Does Canada merely present the illusion of equality and tolerance while actively discouraging it?