Ottawa sued over alleged marriage frauds
(SUPPLIED PICTURE : Saranjeet Benet and bride Opinder Kaur Saini are shown in traditional garb at their 2003 wedding).
Mar 31, 2009 04:30 AM
A Brampton man is attempting to launch a class-action lawsuit against the federal government for failing to investigate and deport foreigners who allegedly trick Canadians into marriages of convenience.
It is unknown how many cases there are nationally, but Immigration Canada's branch office in Mississauga has about 600 files on immigration fraud cases and a lack of staff has created a major investigative backlog.
Saranjeet Benet, a 37-year-old electrician, and his father Sampuran Benet, founded Canadians Against Immigration Fraud and are asking the Federal Court of Canada for permission to pursue a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Canadian sponsors who married foreigners in good faith but were jilted and end up with emotional scars and financial losses.
“We are not asking for money,” said Sampuran Benet, whose Toronto-based non-profit organization boasts 100 members across Canada. “We just want the government to investigate, take action and deport those who defraud Canadians into a marriage in order to immigrate to Canada.”
Saranjeet Benet came to Canada as an infant but returned to India in search of a bride. He and Opinder Kaur Saini were married in Punjab in November 2003.
Three years later, she arrived as a permanent resident through the spousal sponsorship program, but left him a month later, on Jan. 15, 2007. Saini moved in with her parents and sister in Brampton.
Benet claims in court records filed in November in the immigration fraud lawsuit that Saini had no interest in consummating the marriage.
However, in documents filed in response to annulment proceedings, Saini, 33, says he abused her upon her arrival in Canada.
When reached in Brampton this week, Saini declined to comment on the fraud allegations.
The annulment is still before the court.
Neither Canada Border Service Agency nor Citizenship and Immigration Canada investigated the complaint of immigration fraud, first filed in March 2007, the Benets claim.
The family also sent letters to then immigration minister Diane Finley demanding action.
“For over a year, (the claimant) has been forced to endure delays in resolving his complaint,” Benet said in his 17-page claim.
“He seeks justice for the wrongs inflicted on him by Ms. Saini. The applicant also seeks to represent the interests of thousands of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have been the victims of immigration fraud and who, until now, have had no recourse.”
In an affidavit filed in Federal Court this month as part of Immigration Canada's defence of the lawsuit, Wendy Seunath, an officer at immigration's Mississauga branch, said the office alone has approximately 600 files involving immigration fraud.
The Benets' file is among those in the queue.
“Such allegations can only be properly and thoroughly evaluated when the file is assigned to an immigration officer, to be reviewed and often investigated further,” said Seunath, who has been with the department for 20 years.
“We have a very limited number of immigration officers to review these 600 files and do the required investigations. While we have an obligation and responsibility to process all files … we cannot investigate all files at once.”
Also in the department's statement of defence, federal deputy attorney general John Sims said the lawsuit should be dismissed because the department has other competing priorities and there has not been “an unreasonable delay.”
“The ground of inadmissibility alleged by the applicant against his wife is not as serious or pressing as some of the other grounds of inadmissibility” such as subjects of national security threats, Sims said.
A date has not been set for arguments for the class-action application.