Res­i­dency ap­pli­ca­tion stuck in limbo

Area barber has waited more than 8 years and has yet to re­ceive de­fin­i­tive an­swer

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - HUGH ADAMI

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.

JUS­TICE WAITS

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.

PAL­LIA­TIVE PRO­GRAM

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.

BRUNO SCH­LUM­BERGER, THE OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN

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.

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