Parenting is not easy.
As a father of four daughters, I have no hesitation in admitting this basic truth since I — often, if not regularly — revisit and re-evaluate decisions my wife and I have made with respect to our children.
The weight of this responsibility must be particularly formidable when poverty or other circumstances rob a parent of any real ability to make the ‘right’ choices for their children.
I have no doubt that in August 2007, when Magnetta Marcellin sent her 14-year-old son “Darren” to Canada alone with the proverbial one-way ticket in-hand, she was acting in what she thought was her son’s best interests. She believed he had no good educational or work opportunities in his native St. Lucia, and that he could make a better life for himself here even without any parents or lawful immigration status. She and some relatives pooled their resources together to send him here to join his slightly older brother, “Terry,” who was already living here without status.
Terry was employed but wasn’t making enough for himself and Darren. Darren’s biological father in the U.S. and his aunt in the U.K. periodically sent the boys some money. Every Sunday, the brothers called their mom to let her know how they were doing.
About seven months later immigration and police officials caught on to this situation. On Mar. 21, 2008, Terry was arrested and subsequently deported back to St. Lucia, leaving young Darren here by himself. Darren, still a minor, was placed in the care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CAS) while immigration officials busied themselves making plans for his removal to St. Lucia.
After making contact with the mom, the CAS put itself at cross-purposes with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) when it concluded that sending Darren back to St. Lucia was not in his best interests. Instead, it would seek to have him declared a ward of the state so that it could seek immigration status for him here. An application for a temporary resident permit was refused, as was an application for a pre-removal risk assessment.
CBSA planned to deport Darren on Dec. 12, 2009, but Mr. Justice Robert Mainville of the Federal Court issued a temporary stay of removal fully acknowledging that he did not want to make any ruling that would encourage other parents to send their children to Canada in this fashion. He urged the CBSA and the CAS to work together to find a placement option for Darren in St. Lucia.
As we take stock of ourselves during this holiday season, it is important for us to remember just how lucky we are to live in a country like Canada where peace, promise and opportunity is found in such abundance. Indeed, we are so fortunate that some parents abroad feel that we can offer their children even more than they can.
Happy holidays to you and yours.
Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. For more information, visit migrationlaw.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.