Immigration battle forces two elderly women to leave Nova Scotia for United States

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Rules are rules. Am I right?

It doesn't matter if Nancy Inferrera, a 73-year-old American, came to Canada four years ago to look after 83-year-old Mildred Sanford, a friend of 30 years who suffers from heart problems and early-stage dementia.

The Department of Citizenship and Immigration has decided Inferrera doesn't belong in Canada and denied her application for permanent residency.

After exhausting her appeals, Inferrera and Sanford, who depends on her for care, left their home in Guysborough County, N.S., on Wednesday and crossed the border into Maine, where they're staying at motel until they can figure out where to go.

"I just can't comprehend it, I just can't comprehend it," Inferrara told CBC News. "It doesn't make sense in my head. I'm nervous, I'm scared.

"I'm in a real mess here now. A real, real mess."

The government that expedited convicted fraudster and lapsed Canadian Conrad Black's return to his Toronto mansion this year apparently doesn't think an elderly American woman who looks after an even older Canadian woman deserves a home here.

[ Related: Conrad Black gets temporary residence but road back to Canadian citizenship could be rough ]

After her initial application was rejected, Inferrera appealed on humanitarian grounds. But that, too, was turned down.

Julie Carmichael, communications director for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, said in an email to CBC News that the minister will not step in.

"There are no plans to intervene on this file, all avenues of review having been exhausted. The Minister of Public Safety cannot grant legal status in Canada."

In an email to The Canadian Press, Carmichael also said the government needs to make sure illegal residents leave the country quickly.

"A key part of Canada Border Service Agency's mandate is to remove those who violate Canada's immigration laws as soon as possible," she said.

Rules are rules.

Inferrera's lawyer, Lee Cohen, told CBC News Immigration Minister Jason Kenney could intervene but there is no indication he will.

Cohen said Inferrera could also reapply to come back to Canada under a temporary residence permit (wonder if Lord Black's lawyer is available to help).

Cohen told CP the process has been deeply upsetting for Inferrera.

"Every single phone communication I've had with Nancy Inferrera over the past six months or longer resulted in tears from her because of the depth of her despair and frustration and the upset over all of this," he said.

Halifax New Democrat MP Megan Leslie said the government should step in.

"The Conservatives are deporting seniors who are providing home care to fellow seniors," she said in an emailed statement to CP.

"I don't think it's the right way to treat our seniors .... Nancy Inferrera should be allowed to stay in Canada on compassionate grounds."

Sanford went along when Inferrera self-deported. She has no family left in Canada to help her.

"All of my brothers and sisters are gone," Sanford told CBC News. "I couldn't get along without her. I forget to take my medication and everything, like, she's always getting everything ready."

The motel owner in Maine has given the women a 50 per cent discount off the weekly rate so they can stay for a maximum of one week, Cohen said. He's hoping in that time he can convince Ottawa to allow Inferrera back into Canada.

"Failing that, Nancy and Mildred have to find a place to live," he said. "They don't have one."

Inferrera worries they could end up on the street.

"I know I can't afford to live down there and pay for the place up here (in Nova Scotia)," she told CBC News. "Neither one of us can. I have no idea what I'm going to do."

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Cohen added that Sanford has been under a doctor's care and does not have insurance coverage in the United States, CP said.