Revamped reunification process leaves families heartbroken

posted on January 31, 2019

By CBC News |

Family sponsorship site launched Monday abruptly closed after just 11 minutes

It’s been 10 years since Juan Manuel Garcia last saw his mother, who lives in Argentina. His two-year-old daughter has only met her grandmother via Skype.

So at precisely noon on Monday, Garcia sat down at his computer armed with all the documents he’d need to sponsor his mother to become a Canadian resident.

He was among the first to log onto Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) new parent and grandparent program page to submit what’s called an interest form.

“I had everything ready, as [IRCC] said you should do. So I go online and I put my information,” Garcia said.

Garcia’s dream was soon dashed.

“I was kicked out and the form was closed, saying that they were not taking any more requests for sponsorship.”

Within just 11 minutes, the program had already reached its annual quota of 27,000 family reunification interest forms, so the department closed the portal, and with it a window of opportunity for Garcia and thousands of other would-be sponsors.

‘I felt humiliated’
A spokesperson for IRCC later confirmed more than 100,000 individuals attempted to access the online sponsorship form.

The Liberal government scrapped the previous lottery system for reuniting immigrant families and replaced it with the new first-come, first-served system following an angry backlash from hopeful families.

But with Monday’s launch, followed promptly by the sudden shutdown, the backlash is beginning anew.

“I felt humiliated,” Garcia said. “They make you jump through all these hoops, but they don’t really give you a chance. It just feels like your life doesn’t matter to these people. They just didn’t think it through. Whatever they’re doing, it’s just not working.”

Garcia and thousands of other families will now have to wait at least a year before getting the chance to try again.

“How many years am I going to wait? My daughter is two years old. If I get lucky next year, it will still take three years. My daughter will be five. It defeats the purpose of having your grandmother close by,” Garcia said.

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