Sask. family trying to keep grandmother in Canada after years of applying to sponsorship program

·4 min read
Emily Tang (right) said her grandmother Fenglan Ge (left) was her main caregiver growing up as her single mom worked long hours at a hospital and now works with social services. (Submitted by Emily Tang - image credit)
Emily Tang (right) said her grandmother Fenglan Ge (left) was her main caregiver growing up as her single mom worked long hours at a hospital and now works with social services. (Submitted by Emily Tang - image credit)

A Saskatoon family is pleading for a grandmother to be allowed to remain in Canada after she was unsuccessful in the lottery family sponsorship program and is now being told she has to leave during a global pandemic.

Emily Tang said she came to Canada from China as a young girl in elementary school. Her mother worked long hours at a hotel, which meant Tang was dropped off at school around six in the morning and had to hide until teachers started arriving.

It was what the family had to do to support themselves in their new country until Tang's grandmother, Fenglan Ge, was approved on a six-month visa.

"Everything changed," Tang said. "She was able to take care of me and then my mom in turn is able to take care of more kids who need love and support. [My mom] is a child support worker, so she works with children who are in social services."

Emily Tang (far right) said everything changed when her grandmother (centre) came to Canada. Tang and her younger cousin (far left) had a caregiver while their parents worked to support their families while in their new countries.
Emily Tang (far right) said everything changed when her grandmother (centre) came to Canada. Tang and her younger cousin (far left) had a caregiver while their parents worked to support their families while in their new countries.

Ge has now been in Canada since 2012, with her family paying to renew her visa every six months. She filled her days taking care of her grandchildren.

"My grandma is the most kind person I know. She taught me everything that I know, from math to Chinese to how to even be a good person," Tang said.

Around 2016, Tang's mother Yue Li was working multiple jobs and made enough to meet all the requirements to sponsor Ge to stay in Canada permanently, instead of on temporary visas. However they weren't selected in any lottery programs.

Li said the government is doing their best by changing the system around peoples' concerns, but she would like Immigration Canada to not use a lottery system or the old first come, first serve and instead move to a criteria system.

"My mom has been here a long time, almost 10 years, and we have citizenship," Li said.

Li said the government should have people meet the current financial conditions but give priority to parents and grandparents who've lived in Canada for many years or whose children are Canadian citizens.

Emily Tang said everything changed for her family when her grandmother, Fenglan Ge was able to come over to Canada. She said her mother was able to then help other children by working with social services and she had someone to help her learn at home.
Emily Tang said everything changed for her family when her grandmother, Fenglan Ge was able to come over to Canada. She said her mother was able to then help other children by working with social services and she had someone to help her learn at home.

This year, the family received a note from Immigration Canada about Ge.

"My grandmother's visa is about to expire in August of this year … they gave us a document saying that she must leave Canada by August 2021," Tang said. "So now, we have to say our goodbyes and it was just very sad for us."

Tang said her family has contacted Immigration Canada multiple times and even reached out to Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau's office. They received a note from the PMO, but didn't hear back from Immigration Canada.

A spokesperson from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said they can't comment on specific cases for privacy reasons.

The spokesperson said they opened the 2020 Parents and Grandparents program for 10,000 people and will be sharing details regarding the 2021 parents and grandparents program in the months to come.

They also said parents and grandparents can apply for a "super visa," which allows them to visit their family members in Canada for extended times.

Ge's visa is set to expire before the 2021 program begins. Tang is concerned about her grandmother travelling during a global pandemic to a country she's not used to anymore. She said Ge is a widower with little family back in China.

"We have the strongest bond with my grandma," Tang said. "I just don't see why the government can't grant us the united status, I just really don't see how that's not possible."

Emily Tang said she doesn't understand why Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada doesn't let her grandmother stay on visas or approve a reunited status for the family after her grandmother has been here legally since 2012.
Emily Tang said she doesn't understand why Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada doesn't let her grandmother stay on visas or approve a reunited status for the family after her grandmother has been here legally since 2012.

Tang said her grandma has been raising her since she was born and the random luck of the lottery system doesn't take into account the bond the family has. She said it's also a cultural tradition for grandparents to be taken care of by their family as they age, instead of in a seniors' home.

"Being reunited is definitely valued in the Asian culture," Tang said. "So she was there for us when we needed her the most. Now, when she's older ... I need to repay my grandma."

Tang said they're hopeful someone will hear their plea.

"The government obviously is trying their best by changing the system over the years, but ... they're basically the judge of our lives," Tang said. "We're hoping that they'll listen to our story and they'll grant us the permission to be reunited together again."