Couple seeks Ottawa's help to be reunited with four-year-old son in India
Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, December 22, 2015 12:19PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 22, 2015 1:16PM EST
An Ottawa couple is calling on the Liberal government to help reunite them with their four-year-old son, who they have been separated from for more than two years after receiving "bad advice" from an immigration consultant.
Bhavna Bajaj unveiled a petition with more than 11,000 supporting signatures at Langevin Block in Ottawa on Tuesday, and then hand-delivered it to Immigration Minister John McCallum.
She said that after speaking with McCallum, she's hopeful she'll see her son soon.
The case stems from January, 2013, when Bajaj and her husband, Aman Sood, arrived in Canada as permanent residents from India.
When they had first applied to immigrate to Canada in 2011, Bajaj was pregnant with a child in England. As the file was being processed, she gave birth to a boy, who the couple named Daksh.
When she told her independent immigration consultant in England that she now had a child, they told her she could go to Canada first and apply to sponsor her son afterwards.
Not knowing that this was breaking a rule with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, she and her husband decided to move to Canada first, thinking they would then apply to bring their son over. They eventually arrived in Canada in 2013, when their son was already two.
"It was the bad advice from the consultant I hired," she told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.
"My plan was for me and my husband to go first, we'll get jobs, and after two or three months, I'll bring my kid," she said, adding that her in-laws in India said they'd take care of Daksh for a few months. "That was the plan."
Matthew Behrens, a co-ordinator with the Rural Refugee Rights Network, told CTVNews.ca that the couple landed at the Montreal airport in January, 2013. After it was discovered that they had a child, but had not declared it in their application, the two were questioned for hours, he said.
Bajaj said that the immigration officials presented the couple with two options: go back to India and re-start the entire application process or sign a declaration promising that they would never apply to bring their son to live with them. She said she signed the declaration after six to seven hours of stressful questioning.
The petition says that the family shouldn't be punished for an "honest" mistake.
"It was a simple, honest mistake, for which they have been punished for over two years by not being allowed to raise their baby boy here in Canada," the petition says.
Behrens, who helped draft the petition, said the couple, with the help of their lawyer, has appealed to immigration officials to grant their son a temporary resident permit on "humanitarian and compassionate" grounds.
However, the visa office in India has refused to handle the case, even suggesting that the boy apply to come to Canada as a skilled worker, even though he is only four-years-old, Behrens said.
Behrens noted that the Liberal government has shown its openness to immigrants and refugees, most recently with the Syrian refugees who have been arriving in the country in the past weeks. Now, the government should help reunite Daksh with his parents, he argued, adding that the couple have jobs, a home, and a spare bedroom "ready and waiting" for their son.
"All it takes is a simple signature from John McCallum, it's not a complicated thing at all," Behrens said.
Her husband is currently in India visiting Daksh, and hopes to bring him to Ottawa when he returns on Dec. 26. Bajaj said she speaks with her son at least once a day on Skype, and visited him for two months in 2014.
"He's not going to be any harm," she said. "I am working here, my husband is working… I can take care of my kid."