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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada accused of discrimination in sponsorship applications

Click to play video: 'Montreal woman fights to bring husband to Canada' Montreal woman fights to bring husband to Canada
WATCH: Painstaking process. A Montreal woman is accusing the federal government of discrimination, as she tried to bring her Cuban husband to Canada. As Global's Dan Spector explains, the woman says the government's spousal sponsorship program is slow and is leaving many families feeling discouraged. – Apr 27, 2021

A Montreal woman is accusing Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) of discrimination as she tries to get permission to bring her Cuban husband to Canada.

Global News first reported on Lauren Degilio’s story in November 2020. She says no progress has been made, adding the spousal sponsorship process is agonizingly slow and painful.

Last week, she protested her situation in front of federal MP David Lametti’s office in Verdun.

“It’s been three years and nothing’s been done and nobody’s listening to me,” Degilio said.

She spoke through tears as she described photos of her husband Iosvany Vega Pileta. He lives in Cuba and she lives in Montreal.

Back in 2017, the couple met while Degilio was on vacation in Cuba.

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“We fell deeply in love, we got married a year later and then we put our application in in July of 2018,” she recounted.

Read more: Quebec spousal sponsorship applicants describe system as broken and discriminatory

Degilio is sponsoring his application to become a Canadian permanent resident, but says federal immigration authorities have made things overly difficult.

“They say, ‘We don’t believe you’re a real relationship, we don’t believe that it’s genuine,'” she explained.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told Global News they recognize that most relationships are genuine, but that officers must do their due diligence because marriage fraud does occur.

Degilio says officials want her husband to do an in-person interview. Immigration lawyer David Chalk told Global News in-person interviews are usually requested when officials have suspicions about a request.

“When the Canadian spouse is a woman sponsoring a man who’s significantly younger or vice versa. There are more cases, in my experience when there will be an interview and things will get slowed down,” said Chalk. Degilio’s husband is younger than her, and she feels that is one reason agents are discriminating against her.

 

Read more: Spousal sponsorship applicants protest for the reunification of families in Quebec

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Chalk said he has had clients interviewed in ways that made him “very unhappy.”

“When I reported some of those interviews to people higher up in the administration, I think they were at least as unhappy as I was. It happens. It can happen,” Chalk said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for IRCC said the department has no tolerance for discrimination.

“We have zero tolerance for any form of discrimination, and never hesitate to take action when our standards are not met. All applications from around the world are assessed equally against the same criteria,” said IRCC spokesperson Peter Liang.

He said COVID has slowed the department significantly, but that they’ve recently hired more staff and increased the capacity to process applications virtually.

“The Havana IRCC office is currently closed. Cuban applications are handled in the Mexico office. The Mexico office has been severely affected by COVID-19, including significant local restrictions, and is currently working with limited resources,” Liang explained.

Degilio wonders why her husband can’t do his interview online.

“We’ve been doing lots of hearings in the judicial process, for example, in the past year over Zoom, that’s something we never did in the past. So yeah, I think that’s that’s a fair criticism she’s making,” said Chalk. He said like many big government organizations, IRCC sometimes is slowed down by problems of administration and the system itself.

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In the meantime, Degilio’s wait continues.. Chalk says thousands of couples are in similar situations.

“I don’t think people understand what people go through,” she said.

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