When his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer last October, Juan Valencia was devastated.
But as if the impending loss of his father weren’t upsetting enough, because of a technicality in federal immigration rules, the diagnosis could mean that Valencia remains separated from his mother as well.
Valencia, 37, immigrated to Canada from Colombia in 2000. After his sister followed him 10 years later,his parents were left with no close relatives in Medellin, so in April 2011 he applied to the federal parent and grandparent sponsorship program to bring them here.
The family waited more than four years as their application made its way through the immigration department’s bureaucracy, and then finally last fall, they reached the last stages of the process; a medical exam to determine whether Leocadio, 81, and Cecilia, 71, were healthy enough to come to Canada. That’s when a doctor found the mass on Leocadio’s lung. It was colon cancer that had spread throughout his body.
The diagnosis means Leocadio would be deemed medically inadmissible for permanent resident statusin Canada, and the family has resigned itself to the fact that he will die in Colombia. But because Leocadio was listed as the principal applicant on the sponsorship for both he and his wife, if he’s rejected, she will be barred from moving to Canada, too.
The family has put the application on hold while they consider their options. But Valencia, an award-winning musician who lives in Pickering, Ont., said he doesn’t understand why the system is so rigid.
“I think that we as Canadians deserve a little bit more flexibility in terms of being able to bring our parents here and enjoy their last few years that they have in this world,” said Valencia, who became a citizen in 2008. “The laws for the grandparents and parents are very strict.”
In what seems to the family a cruel irony, according to IRCC there’s only one way to name a new principal applicant on a sponsorship application: if the current one dies. That means that Cecilia could proceed with her current application, but only if her husband passes away. Valencia said his father could live for at least two more years, and depending how long he survives, Cecilia may have to submit to a new medical exam as part of the process. The older she gets, the less likely she is of passing one.