Almost half of the husbands and wives in southern China and central Africa who want to rejoin their spouses in Canada are refused, a situation MP Olivia Chow calls cruel and arbitrary.

That this country makes it tough for some couples to be reunited is no surprise to a Markham, Ont., engineer and his two little girls. To try to get their wife and mother here, they’ve spent a year scaling a mountain of bureaucracy stacked with family photographs and questions about minutiae such as in-laws’ birthdates.

“The system encourages you not to tell the truth,” says a frustrated Khalid Nabbie, who has been separated from wife, Dixie Ann, since returning to Canada from Trinidad last year.

“I know three people who came here on regular visas and applied here. It takes longer, but at least they’re together.”

Chow, the NDP immigration critic, yesterday released spousal sponsorship numbers supplied by Citizenship and Immigration Canada two months after a formal written request.

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