Canadian and US immigration lawyer Andy Semotiuk: One tragic aspect of immigration policy is that sometimes officials have to make life and death decisions involving families. This is the case for a former Toronto Argonauts football player and Canadian permanent resident, Andrew Stewart, who was deported from Canada for criminality 7 years ago. His Canadian wife is now seeking to bring him to Canada for cancer treatment via spousal sponsorship:
Stewart, who also suffers from Parkinson’s disease, now lives in Jamaica — where he was born. But he has no family, job or relatives there. He came to Canada with his parents as a child. His family — his wife, two daughters — live in Surrey, B.C. He has a son from another relationship who also lives in Canada…
According to a letter from a radiation oncologist in Jamaica, Stewart will be dead in three to five months if he doesn’t get treatment. He was advised to go abroad for intensity modulated radiation therapy which isn’t available on the island.
Canadian immigration law requires that an immigrant who commits a serious criminal offence be deported from Canada. In Stewart’s case, the offenses were a fraud conviction in the US and another fraud conviction in Canada; he served prison time in both countries before being deported from Canada in 2009.
To compound matters for Stewart, Canada’s immigration law also holds that immigrants cannot come to Canada if they will pose an excessive demand on Canada’s health care system.
You may have heard that Canada has a policy of keeping families together whenever possible and this is true. In better circumstances – as in no criminal record for Stewart – he would probably be allowed to return to Canada to get the medical care he needs and to live out his life with his family. But the policy of keeping families together does not trump the policy on criminal convictions.
Immigration For Access To Health Care
In an ideal world, a criminal record wouldn’t matter and a remorseful Stewart would find help in Canada. But we do not live in an ideal world – we live in a world where matters such as criminal offences and economic burdens on the health care system must be considered. Policies regarding criminality and burdens on the medical system are made to protect society from abuses and to benefit Canadians by advancing their security and their safety in terms of access to health care. Enforcing this policy, while seemingly cruel to the individuals involved, is beneficial to the long term good of the people of Canada.
Will Minister McCallum Step In?
Immigration Minister McCallum has so far shown that he is willing to grant permanent residency and stays of deportation to others who are in the grey zones of immigration policy. However, these cases didn’t involve people who had criminal records in Canada. Practically and politically, that makes this case a different ball game.
I will track this case with interest to see what immigration officials will do. If the decision were up to me, I would turn the applicant down for the reasons mentioned above.