Advertisement

Immigration delay leaves Outaouais cancer patient waiting years for parents' arrival

Maria Fernanda Maxil Platas, centre, poses with her parents José Antonio Maxil, 72, and Magdelena Platas, 65, during their recent visit to the Ottawa area.  (Submitted by Maria Fernanda Maxil Platas - image credit)
Maria Fernanda Maxil Platas, centre, poses with her parents José Antonio Maxil, 72, and Magdelena Platas, 65, during their recent visit to the Ottawa area. (Submitted by Maria Fernanda Maxil Platas - image credit)

Every day, Outaouais resident Maria Fernanda Maxil Platas waits patiently for news from immigration officials that she'll be permanently reunited with her aging parents here in Canada.

Thousands of kilometres away, just outside Mexico City, her parents do the same.

Maxil Platas is in Canada alone, and after three years of waiting — and a recent breast cancer diagnosis — her frustration is growing.

As an only child, the 36-year-old says her parents rely on her for help as they grow older, and they in turn have helped her through her cancer treatment. In this family, the caretaking goes both ways.

"It's a night-and-day difference having someone at home that cares for you," she said. "It [would allow] me to continue my recovery in high spirits."

Maxil Platas moved to Montreal in 2010 to pursue her studies, became a Canadian citizen in 2018 and settled in the Outaouais.

In 2021, she started the sponsorship process for her parents through a federal government program. After hearing back from the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) a few months later, she was left in the dark.

It was only after contacting her MP and CBC in February that Maxil Platas finally received an update. She was told it could take up to 50 months to bring her parents to Canada.

"If we say that we're a nation that's welcoming of newcomers, the system needs to be improved," she said. "These immigration processes, they need to be human."

Asked about the case, IRCC did not release any additional details to CBC beyond the estimated timeframe already provided.

Maxil Platas poses with her parents on Canada day. The process to have them join her permanently in Canada could take up to 50 months, according to the IRCC.
Maxil Platas poses with her parents on Canada day. The process to have them join her permanently in Canada could take up to 50 months, according to the IRCC.

Maxil Platas poses with her parents in Ottawa on Canada Day. The process to have them join her permanently in Canada could take up to 50 months, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. (Submitted by Maria Fernanda Maxil Plates )

Seniors the 'bottom of the barrel'

Maxil Platas isn't alone. According to the latest data from the IRCC, nearly one million immigration applications are in backlog including:

  • 570,900 permanent residence applications.

  • 309,300 temporary residence applications.

  • 49,800 citizenship applications.

The typical processing time under IRCC's parents and grandparents program is 26 months across the rest of Canada, but in Quebec it's 51 months.

Betsy Kane, an immigration lawyer in Ottawa, calls that wait time "unconscionable."

"How would you like it if you wanted to bring your spouse and you were in this queue?" Kane asked.

Cases like Maxil Platas's are given lower priority than those of economic immigrants including foreign workers and international students, Kane said.

"Senior citizens are kind of at the bottom of the barrel because they're not key to sustaining the economy. That's why you're seeing those processing times," she said.

Maxil Platas's MP Greg Fergus told CBC that he can't divulge specific details about IRCC-related cases for confidentiality reasons.

"It is with sadness that I learn of the challenges she and her family are facing," Fergus said in a written statement. "Unfortunately, Members of Parliament have limited power to intervene in these processes."

Ottawa immigration lawyer Betsy Kane said IRCC is facing delays with 'complex' visa applications even as it makes progress on easier files.
Ottawa immigration lawyer Betsy Kane said IRCC is facing delays with 'complex' visa applications even as it makes progress on easier files.

Ottawa immigration lawyer Betsy Kane said IRCC is facing delays with 'complex' visa applications even as it makes progress on easier files. (Submitted)

New visa requirements criticized

Late last month, the federal government reimposed visa requirements on Mexican nationals visiting Canada.

The Conservative government imposed a visa requirement on Mexico in 2009 to stem the flow of asylum claims. The Trudeau government relaxed it in 2016.

American border officials said some Mexican nationals were using Canada's visa-free rule to fly into the country and then cross illegally into the United States by land.

"Quebec was pushing the feds to reimpose a visa because they were dealing with an unprecedented amount of applications," Kane said.

The new requirements won't impact the processing time for visa applications, according to Kane, but it will affect her parents if they'd like to visit.

"It's an extra layer of bureaucracy," she said. "If you were bringing your parents or grandparents for a visit last month, you didn't need a visa. Now they can't get here without being vetted through the Canadian consulate in Mexico."

Kane suggested her parents apply for a "super visa," which allows them to visit their children or grandchildren for up to five years. Some have criticized that program for being expensive and restrictive.

She said she finds the process frustrating.

"You're never able to talk to anybody. You have to navigate through web pages with information that's not accurate. There's like three different trackers. It's just so, so hard to go through that."