Challenge to Canadian Visa Procedures at Canadian High Commisoion (CHC), Colombo
Posted on August 30th, 2009

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ T. Viresh Fernando, CA

I have launched a judicial review (appeal) of a visa officerƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ decision made at the Canadian High Commission in Colombo to refuse ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ visit visas for two students aged 18 and 17. The kids are from a very ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ rich, attend private school, and have previously travelled widely ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ including to Canada and the US. They were coming here to be at their ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ grandmotherƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s 80^th birthday party. They were returning to SL in time ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ to sit for the London A-Levels in June 2009. The kidsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ mom and younger ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ sister were remaining in SL. Their father who was a U of T graduate ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ and a permanent resident returned to SL many years ago, passed away ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ about four years ago.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ I happened to be in SL in March 2009 when the applications were made. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ As I had heard many horror stories about the way people are treated at ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the High Commission I decided to accompany the two young girls. I was ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ shocked when I was initially refused entry. After insisting that I had ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ a right as a Canadian lawyer to enter the premises the security ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ officers reluctantly allowed me to do so. When the number for the two ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ girls was called all three of us walked up to the counter/window where ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ I once again identified myself and showed my passport. The Tamil lady ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ at the counter shouted and said I had no right to be there and called ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ security and screamed at them. I explained that I had a right under ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Canadian law to accompany my ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-clientsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. I specifically asked the lady ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ to check the application and tell us whether any additional documents ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ or information was needed and she said no. The application packagesƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ contained a letter on my letterhead explaining who I am and what the ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ purpose of the applicants visit to Canada was. It also contained my SL ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ cell phone number and a request to call me if any further ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ clarification was needed. WE were told to return at 3.00 pm.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Although I donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t do the volume of immigration work I used to CHC knows ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ me very well as I still do investor class applicants from SL. By ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ entering my name in their computer system CHC would have known the ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ names of ever file I handled through that office and whether anyone ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ who had come to Canada through me had claimed refugee status.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ As applicantsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ names and application outcomes are announced over the ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ PA system everyone know who is/not granted a visa. There was a clear ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ pattern that a disproportionate number of Tamil applicants were ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ approved compared to Sinhala, Muslim and Burgher applicants. I have ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ received this type of complaint for many years but no one was willing ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ to provide affidavits and challenge the systematic discrimination in ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Colombo. Since 1996 the entire local staff has been changed threeƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ times. Some Canadian staff who shared in bribes have been moved out ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ and or terminated. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Go betweensƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ openly approach applicants outside ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the heavily fortified gates and offer to obtain visas on a fee for ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ success basis!

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ By using the access to privacy act and accessing the official CAIPS ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ computer notes I discovered that the Canadian visa officer’s concerns ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ listed in CAIPS was not what was in the visa refusal letters and the ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ concerns were also not said to the applicants so that the applicants ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ had a chance to respond to the concerns as is required by law. I also ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ discovered that the Canadian officer had merely rubber stamped the ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Tamil clerkƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s recommendation which is of course completely against the ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ law.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ One of the grounds on which the challenge is based is systemic ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ bias/discrimination. Many of you would have seen on TV and read in the ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ paper in the last two weeks about the Somali-Canadian lady Suaad ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Mohammed who was effectively denied her right to return Canada for no ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ other reason than the colour of her skin.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ I have made a second access request with regard to a breakdown of visa applications by ethnicity, last name, first language, etc which will ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ help me statistically determine the existence of discrimination and ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ also the ethnic make-up of the CHC local staff.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ I am wondering whether anyone has information and or contacts who can ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ give me more information/personal stories of visa refusals or ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ discrimination they faced at CHC Colombo so I can place the ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ information before the court. Also any other suggestion you may have ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ in this area is welcome.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Let me close with another crazy situation I am facing now. A Sinhala ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ friend of mine who is a Canadian citizen returned to SL about 20 years ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ago and married a SL lady 18 years ago. They have four children who ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ are registered with CHC Colombo as Canadian citizens and have Canadian ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ passports as permitted by law. The family wishes to move back to ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Canada and I am doing the husbandƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s sponsorship of the wife. Last week ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ I received a letter from CHC Colombo asking that the couple produce ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ wedding photographs ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” though they have been married for years and CICƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ knows that!!!

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Please feel free to forward this to others.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Viresh

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ T. Viresh Fernando, CA
ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Barrister & Solicitor
ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 2902-95 Thorncliffe Park Drive
ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Toronto, On, M4H 1L7
ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 416-977-9846
ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 416-977-1143

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