A tearful Harbhajan Kaur Binning sits in the office of the opposition NDP MP from Surrey Newton Jinny Sims with a hope to get his son in India a visa so that he could attend the funeral of his brother.
One of the sons of Binning had died and she has been running from pillar to post to get visa for her second son so he could make it to come here and say final goodbye to his brother. "All I have been told that he might not return," she said as her voice choked while talking to the media.
Binning is not alone who is facing difficulty in bringing her son to Canada in an emergency situation. She was one of the families paraded before the press by Sims.
Gurpal Singh Kambo has lost her mother recently. While she was hospitalized his brother in India had applied for visa to visit her, but his application was declined.
But after she passed away, the authorities once again refused to grant him visa.
They all have one common thread in their story; either they have lost someone in the family or have somebody on the death bed. In spite of all this Sims claims that the immigration officials have shown no compassion toward the applicants. "Those making applications are being denied visas on the basis of lack of travel history or insufficient funds." She also acknowledges that there have been a few cases where the applicants had abused the privilege of visas in the past, but she strongly argues that the entire community cannot be painted with one brush. "Those who abuse the system must be punished, but you cannot persecute everyone because of a few bad apples."
Sims recently wrote an open letter to the minister of immigration and citizenship Chris Alexander seeking his intervention in such matters. "Too often those who have a genuine need to visit Canada are subject to regulations that are neither transparent nor consistent. I ask you to take on the important task of delivering compassionate, consistent and fair treatment of Canadian families in times of crisis and grief," she added.
The office of the minister Alexander did not respond to an email that was sent for his comment. The issue has emerged as the Indo Canadians commemorate the centenary of the hanging of Mewa Singh. Mewa Singh was executed in January 1915 for assassinating a controversial immigration inspector William Hopkinson - who was instrumental behind anti immigrant policies. The Indian immigrants were not allowed to bring in their families back then and in 1914- Komagata Maru vessel carrying over 300 passengers was forced to return under the discriminatory immigration laws that were designed to discourage permanent settlement of Indians in this part of the world. Interestingly, the current Prime Minister Stephen Harper had apologized for the Komagata Maru incident in 2008. Surinder Singh Takhar whose sister was denied visa bluntly described the government as "garbage". He questioned, "What wrong we did?" His sister had applied for the visa so that she could look after her sister-in-law who was suffering from brain tumor.