Happy (belated) Anniversary!


First AnniversaryI meant to finish this up yesterday, but somehow the time just simply got away from me.

December 22, 2011 was the date upon which Ms. Marlene Edmond of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada visa office in New York City, NY, USA officially rejected my application for permanent residency.

Thus, on this the first anniversary date (plus one) of the rejection I am looking back.  Things have changed dramatically in the past year.

When she has to refuse an application I wonder if she worries if she has made a mistake.  Perhaps in a case such as mine she doesn’t – though the subsequent events suggest to me that in fact the rejection – or at least the procedure leading up to that rejection – was a mistake.  I have no idea if such cases are ever reviewed internally at CIC to see if they are actually “doing things correctly” or not. I do know that it seems like once they lose a case, they bend over backwards to correct whatever the fundamental flaw was in the original process.  Still that doesn’t guarantee that the application will be granted.

In Ms. Edmond’s case, my opinion is that her mistake was in not pushing back on the medical officer’s decision.  That even a casual reviewer – let alone an immigration officer of her many years of experience – would look at this and say “wow, how can you reach a conclusion that someone is inadmissible when they have multiple overlapping plans for payment that don’t require on personal promises to pay and cover 100% of more than 4x the estimated current cost?” suggests to me that she should have been asking that question.

Or perhaps another way of looking at it Ms. Edmond: if you were going to reject me simply because of the policy of British Columbia, why did you ask me to submit anything to you in the first place?  I could have saved the thousands of dollars I spent in responding to the fairness letter and you wouldn’t have needed to waste your scarce resources on reviewing that response.   Indeed, looking back at it now, I find it difficult to see how a Federal Judge wouldn’t have asked that question – and therein concluded that there really was no “individualized assessment”.  After all, the decision simply required referring to the provincial policy.

In Sapru, the Court concluded that the immigration officer could not “fix” the poor decision of the medical officer.  In my case, the Medical Officer Hélène Quevillon really didn’t have any other reason in her original written notes to indicate this was related to me – it really was about BC’s public funded drug policy.  Ms. Edmond didn’t even go as far as the officer in Sapru did – she certainly didn’t push back on Ms. Quevillon’s determination and there is absolutely no indication that she reviewed that decision, especially in light of her duty to do so under the Sapru decision.  She certainly didn’t try to invent additional rationale for reaching the decision.  Thus, she acted more like a rubber stamp – with even less “value add” than was the case in Sapru – a case in which the Court overturned CIC’s decision.

So while I seriously doubt that Ms. Edmond will ever review her decision in my case, if I could communicate directly with her I would say that I am disappointed – not in the outcome, but rather in her execution of the process.

I am quite fortunate – I had the drive and resources available to challenge her decision.  Most people in such a position likely just walk away from the decision.  That is why it is so important that people like Ms. Edmond do their best to ensure their decision is fair and equitable.

In the interveningyear, I’ve had the honour to assist several people with their cases, and one is a case similar to mine: a federal skilled worker application in which the spouse was found to be HIV positive.  The medical decision is still pending – they have now furthered it once again, because the test results indicate that without treatment this individual does not require treatment under current guidelines in their intended province.  Of course, if they were coming to BC it would be easier – CIC could just reject them, since the provincial policy is to provide treatment to everyone, regardless of their lab results.  It saddens me to see how difficult this is for people – leaving their lives hanging in the balance for months and years.

So Ms. Edmond, it’s been one year now since you wrote that rejection letter.  Even now as I read the closing (“thank you for your interest in Canada“) I feel a certain degree of bitterness with the snide nature of that closing line. Canada deserves better – it deserves immigration officers and medical officers that remember there are real people behind those files.

While I didn’t win the victory I really wanted, I have managed to achieve sufficient victory for me to be satisfied with the outcome.  I hope both you and Ms. Quevillon do your very best for Canada now and in the future.

Merry Christmas!

 

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Reflections, Apologies and Moving Forward


My attorney recently learned of my blog from a rather surprising source: Justice Canada. Apparently I’ve said some unflattering things on here and (now that I’ve been re-reading them) I can see why he might be upset.

While it was a tense couple of days as we went back and forth (I won’t detail the conversations at this point, but I did learn that an attorney cannot drop a client easily, without the agreement of the client or permission of the Court.)  In doing this I realized that his criticism was actually correct – that I didn’t trust him.  This wasn’t fair to him, because the distrust wasn’t really appropriately aimed at him.  Rather, the distrust was really from my previous attorney.  Once I received the medical results back from CIC my old attorney said basically “sorry about this, too bad it won’t work out.”  Not surprisingly, I now realize this made me feel abandoned.  I’d picked my attorney precisely because he presented himself as being knowledgeable about GLBT immigration issues.  It turns out he wasn’t as comfortable pushing into this area.

So I did all the leg work necessary: coordinated with my employer to create the medical savings plan.  I already had a private insurance policy and with a bit more work I arranged to be covered by a group policy (with no medical underwriting because of the size of the group).  This provided 100% coverage, with overlapping policies – and the PHSP is a medical savings plan, so there’s no question that it by itself would pay.  But since the one thing I couldn’t do is identify the cost of the drugs, I didn’t want there to be any question that the coverage wouldn’t be sufficient – and it was external to me.

The damage was done by then, though.  I’d been forced to be self-reliant and learn a distrust of my old attorney.  But carrying that into the relationship with my new attorney was unfair to him.

So I will say this.  I think my current attorney has done a very good job.  At one point I told him:

I think highly of your work.  I have recommended you to
several others already and I know at least one of them has engaged your for representation.  I would not have done that if I did not respect your abilities.

I do think this fairly summarizes my objective opinion of him.  I have apologized to him personally and I now do so publicly.  My comments were coloured by my bias and unduly harsh.  There really is no one else who would have done a better job of representing my case before the course.

I’m writing this after a very tumultuous 10 days or so, trying to capture the important essence now before it fades from my memory.

I think the attorney for Justice Canada has done a professional job on behalf of her client.  While I will never know, based upon my review of what has happened now that the dust is settling and I’m regaining some objectivity, I get the sense that when she reviewed this case she knew that her client had “screwed up” and she was going to have to do some work to prevent them from getting egg on their face.  I made her job easier, with the spousal application, because it gave CIC an “out”. She would have been well aware of the case law: Hilewitz, Sapru, Companioni and Rashid.  CIC lost three of those four cases.  When I read Sapru I thought “wow, this is my case except the visa officer didn’t even bother to try and backfill the rationale”.  In some ways I have sympathy for the visa officer – the medical officer really did hang her out to dry by not giving her much.  Then again, the visa officer probably should have pushed back. Maybe she was assuming I’d just give up and walk away, as I’ve talked about and I suspect most people in my situation would have done.

For the Justice Canada attorney, I’m sure none of this was personal.  She was doing her job.  Perhaps I’ve made it a bit more personal by some of the things I’ve said, but I suspect that she knows someone in my position isn’t going to be terribly objective.

So, I apologize to my attorney – he was not deserving of my lack of trust.  And if I have offended CIC’s attorney, I apologize as well, because in the end my read is that you’ve pushed for a good outcome for both parties, which is ultimately the objective.

I’ve made my decision, by the way.  After discussions with my attorney I concluded that there wasn’t enough to gain by moving forward.  He discussed the situation with CIC’s attorney and she inquired as to the status of my new application and the word relayed to me (from LA) was:

All statutory requirements have been met as of September 12th. We cannot speculate as to when the final decision will be rendered but as nothing else is pending, the file is expected to be concluded shortly.

With this, and the discussion with my attorney I agreed to discontinue the judicial review application.  The docket for my case is truly an unusual one, far outside the norm, but without a decision it’s not one that anyone else will ever study.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing, honestly.