Woman facing deportation from Canada over forged letter loses judicial review

Karamjeet Kaur has been campaigning against a decision by Canada's Immigration and Refugee Agency to have her expelled from Canada over a fake Ontario college acceptance letter that was presented as part of her 2018 student visa application.  (Rick Bremness/CBC - photo credit)

Karamjeet Kaur has been campaigning against a decision by Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Agency to have her expelled from Canada over a fake Ontario college acceptance letter that was presented as part of her 2018 student visa application. (Rick Bremness/CBC – photo credit)

An Edmonton woman facing deportation from Canada has lost a judicial review of the federal government’s decision, leaving her with a final legal option to pursue.

Karamjeet Kaur, 25, is fighting a decision by the Immigration and Refugee Agency of Canada to deport her from Canada for a fake Ontario college acceptance letter that was submitted as part of her 2018 student visa application.

Canadian officials accept that Kaur was unaware the letter – which was filed by an immigration officer who is now being prosecuted in India – was fake.

But immigration officials insist it was Kaur’s responsibility to check with the school to ensure her admission was genuine.

Kaur requested a judicial review of that decision, but it was dismissed in January by Federal Court Judge Ann Marie McDonald, who found the immigration service’s decision fair.

“The applicant trusted an immigration consultant and was deceived. However, these circumstances do not relieve the complainant of the consequences of her misrepresentation,” McDonald said in a written statement.

The discovery of McDonald’s has left Kaur fearful for her future.

“Everybody in the government sees me as a criminal, but I’m not because I think I’m the victim of this case,” Kaur said in an interview this month.

As a last-ditch effort, Kaur has made an application for Humanitarian and Compassionate Consideration, which is available on an exceptional basis to individuals who otherwise do not qualify.

“I think that’s the only hope I have right now,” she said.

One of the reasons Kaur’s family sent her to school in Canada is a physical disability that limits her movement and made her the target of discrimination and harassment in her home community in northern Indian Punjab.

Nathan Gross/CBC

Nathan Gross/CBC

Kaur’s family is low-income and lacks access to computers and is unfamiliar with the immigration system, so they hired an immigration consultant to help Kaur apply for the visa.

The agent prepared an application – containing the fake college acceptance letter – signed by Kaur’s male cousin. She never signed it herself.

Canadian officials initially accepted the acceptance letter and issued the student visa. After Kaur arrived in Ontario in April 2018, the agent informed her that the position at Ontario College had failed.

She made her way to Edmonton, self-enrolled at Norquest College, and earned a degree in business administration. She then got a work permit and a job in retail, where she has been working for four years now.

It wasn’t until she applied for permanent residency in 2020 that officials discovered that the letter for the school was fake, and she lost her January 2022 stay offer.

In December 2022, Kaur’s attorney appeared before McDonald and presented several arguments to reconsider Kaur’s case, but the judge dismissed them all.

“No room for discretion”

“The way Canadian law is drafted and applied – it leaves no room for discretion,” said Kaur’s attorney Manraj Sidhu.

“You don’t look at the intention of a person performing an action.”

Sidhu said McDonald’s decision didn’t surprise him; Their results are consistent with precedents in such cases.

In her ruling, the judge, citing a 2021 ruling on misrepresentations made by someone other than the applicant, notes that the integrity of the immigration system, though it may seem rigid, depends on an applicant ensuring that he has provided truthful information.

McDonald also questioned Kaur’s portrayal of herself as vulnerable and destitute – noting in particular that Kaur has a computer science degree from her time in India.

But Kaur and her lawyer say it was the immigration officer who claimed that Kaur studied computer science, when in fact she received a Bachelor of Science degree from a very different school than the one the officer said.

Sidhu added that although Kaur was attending post-secondary studies in India, that didn’t mean she always had access to computers or phones to contact college.

He believes Canada’s immigration system does not properly reflect the realities of life for people in Kaur’s circumstances.

“If you live in India and live close to the poverty line, you don’t have the luxury of having international calls on your phone,” Sidhu said.

“It’s all in the acceptance letter and treated like a one-way ticket to college. And there is never any doubt as to the accuracy or authenticity of this document.”

Nathan Gross/CBC

Nathan Gross/CBC

Sidhu is also concerned for his client’s safety should she have to return to India.

When the false letter was discovered, Kaur’s family lodged a complaint with the Punjab Police and the agent was arrested and charged. He disappeared while on bail, and Kaur and her family have received threats that she would be harmed if she returned and testified against him.

Sidhu said it was likely that they would hear about the request for compassionate and humanitarian leave in the next four to five months.

Kaur said she has been overwhelmed with support from friends, colleagues and the wider community since her story was published in 2022.

“I have many friends and support during this difficult time. All [is] tries to support me. I hope I’m fine,” she said.


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