Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Man sues over immigration case delay

Toronto Star

I don't want to lose my brothers and sisters. I've lost my parents already Sithamparanthar Karalasingam
Son fighting for siblings' entry after parents killed in Sri Lanka awaiting application's processing
Jul 04, 2007 04:30 AM
Tracey Tyler

Since arriving in Canada seven years ago, Sithamparanthar Karalasingam has dreamed of seeing his family.

Anxious to get them away from violence in Sri Lanka, the 25-year-old tractor-trailer driver applied in May of 2003 to have his parents and three siblings join him in Toronto.

But his sponsorship application remained in bureaucratic limbo for more than three years.

Last August, Karalasingam's worst fears came true when Sri Lankan government forces battling Tamil insurgents launched a shelling attack on his family's village in the Jaffna peninsula.

His parents, Thavayoganayaki Karalasingam, 51, and Karalasingam Sithamparanthar, 52, were killed when mortar shells hit their home.

Their son is asking the federal government to admit his siblings into Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, but so far the government has refused.

Karalasingham, who is in a position to support his family until they find jobs in Canada, is asking the Federal Court of Canada to review the decision. "I don't want to lose my brothers and sisters," he said. "I've lost my parents already."

What happened to Karalasingam's family is "a tragedy," said NDP citizenship and immigration critic Bill Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas). It illustrates the problems associated with a "terrible backlog" in family class applications – requests by Canadian citizens or permanent residents to have spouses, parents or dependent children admitted into the country, he said.

"We know the backlog is such that five or six years is not unusual and it's completely unacceptable," said Siksay, adding the government needs to speed up processing times to prevent similar tragedies.

Canadian officials would have known that, as Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Karalasingam family was at serious risk of harm from all parties to the hostilities, including government and rebel forces, said Raoul Boulakia, Karalasingam's lawyer.

A report from the United Nations refugee agency last December warned that Tamils in northern Sri Lanka, where Karalasingam's siblings are now living, were at risk of being kidnapped or killed.

After their parents died, Karalasingam's brother, Sayanthan, 24, and sisters, Syanthini, 23 and Preethiny, 20, no longer qualified to immigrate under a family class application for permanent residency.

But the government can make exceptions on humanitarian and compassionate grounds and has done so in the past, Boulakia said.

Last August, the siblings asked the Canadian High Commission in Colombo for help but in February they were told the file was closed.

Boulakia said the government has made a settlement offer. If Karalasingam drops his lawsuit, officials will consider his request – but with no promises it will be granted. But Karalasingam fears his file could again disappear into another bureaucratic black hole.

Siksay said the handling of the case has been downright un-Canadian. We promise immigrants "they will be able to sponsor family members later." Instead, he said, delays often leave Canadians frustrated.