Pakistani Couple Poised To Be Deported While Their Kids Stay In Canada

Pakistani couple poised to be deported while their kids stay in Canada

By Tobi Cohen
The Canadian Press
July 13, 2009

MONTREAL—Despite pleas to high-level Ottawa politicians from friends, employers and their local MP, a Montreal-based Pakistani couple are poised to be deported to the United States on Tuesday while their four children remain in Canada.

Sabir Mohammed Sheikh and his wife Seema were refused a stay of deportation last week.

Their children, including five-year-old Canadian-born Sabrina, are being allowed to stay.

“I'm actually losing hope in this whole system,” their 21-year-old son Sami said Monday after he attended an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing with his siblings and dozens of supporters.

“I'm going to go see them tonight (Monday). After that I won't be able to see them at all.”

The couple's lawyer, Stewart Istvanffy, described the situation as “incredibly inhumane” and believes the problem is systemic.

“I don't think the average Canadian really knows what's going on and how badly immigrants and refugees in this country are getting treated right now,” he said.

The family's fate rests on a pending judicial review of a 2007 decision to revoke their refugee status because they lied on their application about the length of time they lived in Dubai after leaving Pakistan.

They had been in Dubai for 20 years but told officials at the time they had been there for only three years.

The family acknowledge the mistake and blame it on fear and bad instructions from fellow immigrants.

They are appealing on humanitarian grounds, fearing political persecution and the wrath of the ex-husband of eldest daughter Ashrah if returned to Karachi.

The Sheikhs have secured passage to the United States as it was through there they initially came to Canada in 2000. But they likely face detention and an uncertain future when they arrive south of the border.

On Monday, Liberal MP Justin Trudeau weighed in on behalf of the Sheikhs with a letter to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney that said their removal would be “devastating” to the family.

He implored the minister to “personally get involved and review their situation.”

“The Sheikh family of four children is well integrated in their Park Extension neighbourhood and are respected members of their community,” he wrote.

“The uprooting of Sabir and Seema Sheikh will not only affect the entire family, but it will also have a considerable impact on their community.”

Kenney spokesman Alykhan Velshi said the “legal authority” to stay a deportation order does not rest with the immigration minister. He said the letter would be forwarded to Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, who is responsible for the Canada Border Services Agency.

Van Loan spokesman Christopher McCluskey said the minister couldn't comment on specific cases.

“After an individual has exhausted all legal avenues it is the responsibility of the CBSA to see that the removal is carried out,” he said in an email response similar to one offered days earlier.

“The removal of inadmissible individuals is key to maintaining the integrity of the immigration program, and to ensuring fairness for those who live in this country lawfully.”