Since 2015 the Toronto man has made three failed attempts to help Ofelia Chavez Ruiz obtain a visitor visa to see him and his wife but could not figure out the reasons for the rejections, which occurred despite documentation showing the 76-year-old woman’s strong ties — and desire to return — to her homeland.
However, Campbell-Durufle said a recent response from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to an MP on his family’s behalf might have explained the realreason for the decisions.
“In the case that interests you, a note to our electronic file indicates that the applicant is a widow and that she was unable to convince the officers of the visa office in Bogota that she was firmly established in her country,” the department noted in an email to New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair, whose office took up the family’s case.
In previous rejection letters, officials had only cited the woman’s lack of travel history, wealth and a purpose for the visit, as well as her ties to Canada through her daughter, as reasons for the refusals.
Campbell-Durufle, a University of Toronto PhD student in international law, said he was shocked by the “widow” reference in his mother-in-law’s file.
“No one could tell us what they wanted. We had given them all the information, notarized documents and statements trying to meet their criteria in good faith. The last application we presented had 186 pages of proofs,” lamented Campbell-Durufle, who met his wife, Carolina Delgado, in Bogota in 2012 and married her two years later.
“But we couldn’t do anything about the fact my mother-in-law is a widow. Does it mean that all widows and widowers can’t travel to Canada? This is ridiculous.”
Marital status is not among the listed reasons in the Immigration Department’s form rejection letter.
“I know refusals of visitor visas are common, but this applicant had a truckload of evidence and a very strong application. In my view, they discriminated against her as a widow, assuming that because her husband died, she won’t go home after visiting,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges, who was consulted by the family.
“She owns property, has family (two sons and a daughter) in Colombia, has travelled to Europe, is financially sound. The refusal is really out of line.”
After the Star inquired into the matter, officials said the Canadian visa post in Bogota has advised Chavez Ruiz this week to submit a new application and promised she will be issued a three-month visitor visa.
“Visa applications are considered on a case-by-case basis on the specific facts presented by the applicant in each case,” noted Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Nancy Chan. “The department does not discriminate based on the relationship status of an individual.”
It is not known how many visitors to Canada end up overstaying their visas because Canada doesn’t track travellers leaving the country. Some 20 per cent of the one million-plus visitor visa applications are rejected annually.
While he is grateful for immigration officials’ change of heart, Campbell-Durufle said the costs of the three failed applications —$200 each, plus fees involved in obtaining supporting documents — and the stress the family had gone through were unnecessary.
“While we do not want to sound ungrateful, we have suffered all this in silence since 2015 and know that our situation is far from being the worst,” said Campbell-Durufle, who hopes his mother-in-law can arrive in time to see the birth of the couple’s first child expected in early February.
Author: Nicholas Keung