Residency application stuck in limbo
Area barber has waited more than 8 years and has yet to receive definitive answer
Is Ahmed-seghir Guettaoui a victim of bungling bureaucrats or is the federal government taking it out on him for going to the media?
Guettaoui, promised in July 2010 that his application for permanent resident status would be dealt with expeditiously after it was more or less ignored for seven years, is still waiting for closure. He received the assurances of quick action the same day his story was recounted by The Public Citizen.
Guettaoui’s case has already been marked with bureaucratic blunders as well as a humiliating arrest by the Canadian Border Services Agency in May 2010 because his work permit had expired. He was handcuffed in front of clients at his Aylmer barbershop and hauled away to a Laval detention centre. He was held for two days before he was freed by an immigration judge. Guettaoui says the expired work permit was largely an oversight because the immigration department had not returned various documents, including his permit, that it had requested from him in 2009. A new permit was issued immediately after his story appeared in the Citizen.
Guettaoui arrived in Canada on Nov. 23, 2000 after fleeing Algeria in 1996, during a bloody civil war. Denied refugee status, he applied in 2003 for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Why another 16 months have passed without word on his application isn’t clear.
Citizen and Immigration Canada isn’t saying much, except that some checks on Guettaoui, 43, are still pending. Immigration doesn’t have an idea on “how long that may take; every case is different.”
Says spokesman Bill Brown: “The application for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds was approved in principle (in July 2010). Once (such an application) is approved in principle, an individual must still meet all statutory requirements, including medical and criminal background checks.”
Guettaoui says the medical was done in August 2010 and he was fingerprinted that month, too. The RCMP was asked to do a background check on his fingerprints in January.
That was done, but the results were sent to Guettaoui last April and not to Immigration. The department finally got the results — from Guettaoui — in July after he went to the Gatineau Immigration office to try to get an update on his application. Guettaoui says he was told the department was still waiting for the RCMP background check.
When he realized he had the same papers Immigration was waiting for, Guettaoui blurted out: “‘I have it.’” He says he was told: “No, you shouldn’t have it.’” He replied: “‘I have it three months ago.’”
Guettaoui went home, retrieved the paperwork, made photocopies and then returned to the office with the originals.
The RCMP document includes his fingerprints. With it were copies of a department request for “security screening action” on Guettaoui by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and “criminal screening action” by the RCMP.
Guettaoui thought the papers were sent to him for his records. The RCMP document says his fingerprints “could not be associated to any existing Criminal Record of conviction which may be disclosed in accordance with Federal Laws.”
In a followup email from Brown after he was asked about the RCMP background check being sent to Guettaoui, the spokesman says: “The Department has received everything we require from Mr. Guettaoui at this point. We are just waiting for some of the checks, which are conducted by our partners, to be completed. I cannot comment on how long that may take but I can assure you that we are following up on the file.”
The email goes on to say that if Guettaoui has any other questions, he should get in touch with the Immigration call centre.
Guettaoui says he has phoned the centre on a number of occasions, but has given up calling because he can never get through to anyone. He says he also feels uncomfortable going to the Gatineau Immigration office because he’s made to feel like a pest. “They hide,” he says.
Guettaoui says he’ll be satisfied if he hears some good news from Immigration by the end of the year.
Melissa Singer, a Montreal lawyer who represented Guettaoui following his 2010 arrest, says “nothing surprises me” in hearing that her former client was still in limbo.
A woman still has to answer to charges in Ottawa and Perth after pleading guilty to one count of fraud under $5,000 in connection with bad rent cheques given to her Kemptville landlord.
Judy Carvish, who originally faced two fraud charges in connection with the Kemptville case, was given 15 months probation. She was ordered to pay landlord Ray Ouellette $3,900 in restitution. If she fails to do so, Ouellette would have to go through small claims court again to try to recover the money.
Carvish and her husband, Brian, a retired Ottawa police officer, gained notoriety after house-sitting the Westboro home of an elderly couple in 2009. In Ottawa, Judy Carvish faces fraud and forgery charges in connection with a Centretown apartment the couple moved to in 2010 after Ouellette kicked them out of his Kemptville property.
She also faces one count of fraud over $5,000, stemming form a Perth investigation into a series of bad cheques, totalling about $12,800, for a Carleton Place condominium the couple lived in from 2008-2009.
Brian Carvish was not charged in any of the investigations.
Last week’s column about Harold Nightingale and the support he received from the Palliative Care Outreach Program during the last 18 months of his life generated reader inquiries about helping the organization. Information on how to donate can be found on PCOP’S website: www.palliativeoutreach.org.
Ahmed-seghir Guettaoui says he has been caught up in red tape and bureaucratic blunders for several years in his attempts to get a permanent resident card and landed immigrant status.