Avtar Singh Saini just wanted his family to be together to mourn the death of his brother. But the government won't allow it. Avtar, one of five brothers, lives in Delta, British Columbia (Canada). Two of his brothers, including Sikander, 52, who died of a heart attack on December 20, are Canadian citizens and residents of Lower Mainland. Another brother is in Dubai and the fifth, Jasbir Singh Saini, 55, in Punjab.
Sikander's funeral was on December 29. While the brother in Dubai got a temporary visa from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Jasbir was refused - repeatedly.
On December 24, Jasbir's refusal letter from the CIC said, "You have not satisfied me that you would leave Canada at the end of your stay as a temporary resident," listing as reasons his "family ties in Canada and in your country of residence" and Jasbir's and Avtar's financial assets.
He applied again, with Avtar proving financial stability, along with a supportive letter from Surrey-North MP Jasbir Sandhu. But Jasbir Saini was denied again on December 27 and missed his brother's funeral.
"He was alone over there (in Punjab) and that was a hard time for him," said Avtar. "This is a hard time for the family."
Avtar is still "in shock" over his brother's sudden death and is worried about Jasbir Saini having to grieve alone.
Avtar can't understand why his brother was denied because he has a career, wife and two children in India.
Sandhu said, "We are a compassionate country, we're compassionate people as Canadians and we should allow families to grieve together … I think that's the least we could have done."
And it's "not a one-time issue," said Sandhu - he's been approached by other families in the same situation.
"The system is not working at all," he said.
So when Sandhu goes to Ottawa, he plans to raise the issue with the minister concerned.
"These situations call for a compassionate response … and it just puzzles me - disturbs me and (the system) definitely needs to be changed," he said.
According to local immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, applications going through Chandigarh - like Jasbir Saini's - are judged harshly because it's "fraud capital."
"Everyday they see scam after scam after scam," he said. "But there's a cost of doing business when you're in a fraud zone - and the innocent suffer."
To get around refusals, Kurland's first suggestion is DNA testing - if the issue is whether the applicant is actually related. But the method Kurland often uses is placing a bank draft to the receiver general that can only be returned once the person in question leaves Canada. He suggests $10,000 to $25,000.
"It's not enough to be a sponsor where you promise to pay - you have to put the cash up front so there's no enforcement issue, there's no ifs, ands or buts - the guy's not out? The money's gone."
But for multiple refusals like Jasbir Saini's, "it's really hard to overcome the prior refusal," said Kurland. "You really have to jump through hoops."
Often the only answer is the federal court, which is expensive and can take a year - which won't help the Sainis.
But Avtar is going to keep at it until January 12.
"Still I am trying to (bring him to Canada) even for a few days… just to be around (his brothers)," he said.