The case of the vanishing groom
Woman with polio fights for spouse, only to find she's been used
Raveena Aulakh Staff Reporter
Published On Tue Jul 06 2010
Ashpreet Badwal, 35, met Manjit Shahi online in 2006 and went to India in 2007 to get married. After spending almost $12,000 fighting to get her sponsorship application approved, she was devastated to learn he had given her the slip on his arrival at Pearson Airport.
Ashpreet Badwal had played the reunion in her mind countless times: Her new husband, Manjit Shahi, would walk through customs at Pearson International Airport, see her waiting there and gather her up in his arms. Or, they would meet, embrace and cry their hearts out.
Instead, Shahi walked through customs at Pearson on June 28 and vanished. Badwal never even saw him because he had fled.
He phoned while I was still at the airport, and said that Ill never see him again, said Badwal, 35. He said he didnt need me any more . . . this, after all Ive done to bring him to Canada.
He also threatened to harm her if she complained to the police or immigration authorities, she said.
Fraudulent marriages are not a new phenomenon in the South Asian community; dozens of cases have been reported in past years where people get married so they can immigrate, and once here abandon their spouses.
But this case has hit a new low: Badwal, who was left in a wheelchair by polio, spent thousands of dollars successfully appealing an earlier decision by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to reject her application to sponsor Shahi.
Badwal met Shahi, 30, online in 2006. She lived in Brampton; he lived in a dusty village in Punjab, India. Soon, they exchanged photographs and were chatting on the phone. In November 2007, Badwal, who then worked for the Royal Bank of Canada, went to India and they got married.
I totally believed he was the right person for me, said Badwal. He was open-minded, nice, attentive …
She returned to Canada and, in March 2008, filed an application to sponsor him. In December, the application was rejected because of the age difference and compatibility issues, said Badwal.
She hired a Bay Street law firm, Green and Spiegel, to fight her case, and won on appeal.
On June 26, Shahi got his Canadian visa. Two days later, he was on a British Airways flight to Toronto. But Badwal, who had been dreaming of this day for years, never even caught a glimpse of him.
It had never crossed her mind that Shahi was marrying her as a way to get into Canada, Badwal said. Of course, I know it happens but there was no indication that he was planning this . . .
At first distraught, then angry, Badwal contacted police and CIC on Friday.
Peel Regional Police would not say whether they are investigating.
Doug Kellam, an immigration spokesperson, said he could not comment on a specific case because of privacy issues but said the Canada Border Services Agency can investigate such cases.
A person in this sort of situation … might very well be taken to inquiry and may be ordered removed, said Kellam. He couldnt provide statistics on how many complaints are lodged about fraudulent marriages.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is looking at this program at a whole because its very, very hard on people, said Kellam. He is consulting with different groups and looking at possibilities of how the law might be structured to deal with this kind of a situation.
Its not only men who undertake fraudulent marriages. In 2009, a Brampton man launched a class-action lawsuit against the federal government for failing to investigate and deport foreigners who trick Canadians into marriages of convenience. Saranjeet Benet, a 38-year-old electrician, founded the non-profit group Canadians Against Immigration Fraud when his wife allegedly abandoned him a month after she arrived in Canada.
Fraudulent marriage or not, a Canadian sponsor remains obligated financially for a foreign spouse for up to three years, under the terms of sponsorship. If the spouse ends up on government assistance, the sponsor must repay the government and risks being denied future sponsorships.
Thats a nuisance, Badwal acknowledged. But the reason she is coming forward about what happened to her is that everyone should know how shameless some people are . . . and the depths to which they will fall, she said.
I just hope hes kicked out of Canada soon.