In Humanitarian and compassionate

Mary Keyork
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One girl’s long way home – Permanent residence granted on humanitarian and compassionate grounds

Miriam first contacted us on a sunny and crispy Montreal morning regarding obtaining permanent residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds; she sounded anxious and was looking for answers that would essentially determine her personal and professional life.

A young professional in her mid-twenties, Miriam lived most of her adult life in Canada; however, she had no real status in Canada and had a complicated life story.

She was born in the family of foreign diplomats in Ottawa. She was born in Canada, but she was not a Canadian citizen!

Her parents, people of Belarus, were stationed in Canada for five years. During those five years, they had Miriam, who was completely immersed in Canadian culture and thought of herself as a Canadian.

Unfortunately, despite being born in Canada and having a Canadian birth certificate, Miriam was not a Canadian in the eyes of the law. As she was born in the family of foreign diplomats during posting, she, therefore, was exempted from claiming Canadian citizenship.

Of course, at the time, her parents were not aware of this existing rule and only did not give enough thought to how Miriam would feel when they eventually would have to leave Canada.

While her parents were grateful for the opportunity to get accustomed with Canada and made lifelong friends during that period of their career, they knew that Canada was not their home. Unlike her parents, Miriam didn’t know any other home than Canada.

It was heartbreaking for her parents to watch their little girl cry during the whole flight back to Belarus, but there was little they could do.

As a consolation, Miriam’s mother packed a small bag of “Smarties” candies, Miriam’s favorite Canadian snack, and hoped that it would help her daughter’s sadness caused by leaving Canada.

After returning to Belarus, the family stayed there for a year and then eventually left on another diplomatic mission. Sadly for Miriam, she never quite assimilated in Belarus during that one year, and never felt home in any of the countries that her parents’ career took them to.

Soon after turning 18, Miriam decided to move to Canada and get her education here. Her parents were back to Belarus and settled, and while they were sad to let their daughter go, they knew she should follow her dreams.

Canada had always been on Miriam’s mind; she would always read about Canadian news, watch Canadian TV shows, and was always up to date with what was going on in Canada.
On a beautiful summer day and with just two bags, Miriam arrived in the beautiful city of Montreal ready to build her life in Canada. She was excited to discover the French heritage of Canada and to study at the University of her choice.

It is safe to say that Miriam thoroughly enjoyed her student experience in Montreal, made friends with locals and discovered how much she loved smoked meat. Four years of intense studies in the marketing field flew by, and Miriam was ready to jump-start her career.

Just like millions of young Canadians, Miriam started the challenging but eventually rewarding process of a job hunt and finally landed a great entry level position in one of the most reputable marketing agencies in Montreal.

In the meantime, she also met Andrew, a graphic designer whose studio was in the same building as her marketing agency. Miriam and Andrew made it a ritual to get lunch together every Tuesday and Thursday, and shortly after they both realized that they had romantic feelings for each other.

Canada had become everything Miriam had ever wanted; she had a job she adored, a man with whom Miriam was falling in love more and more with every passing day, great friends and the never-ending feeling that she was home.

During one of the conversations, Miriam was telling Andrew how she dreamt of the day she would acquire Canadian citizenship and would become a proud owner of a Canadian passport.

Naturally curious, she Googled the process of applying for citizenship to get some idea as to what documents she would need for the application and quickly realized that despite being born in Canada and her Canadian birth certificate, it did not entitle her to Canadian citizenship because she was born in the family of foreign diplomats during posting.

Miriam just froze, and the reality hit her; she was not Canadian, and she was out of status all these years.

  • What is going to happen to her?
  • Would she be asked to leave the country eventually?
  • What about her job?
  • What about her relationship with Andrew?

They sat there, staring at each, both anxious and not knowing what the future held for them. Andrew cared about Miriam, but he was nowhere near ready to ask her to marry him. In fact, they both wanted to date for a while and get to know each other, travel the world and focus on their careers before committing to starting a family.

Besides, that was not how Miriam would want her relationship to progress; being proposed out of fear that she would be asked to leave Canada eventually? Being proposed out of necessity?

No, no, no; there should be some other way. After all, she was so established in Canada, with an extensive network of friends and coworkers, with her employer being euphoric with her performance, with Andrew.

Right then and there, Miriam knew she had to contact an immigration lawyer and find out what her options would be. After all, all these years she lived in Canada should count for something. That was what Miriam hoped and prayed for when she was getting ready for the consultation with an immigration lawyer.

Thankfully, there is a possibility to apply for permanent residence from within Canada based on an establishment in Canada as well as compelling humanitarian and compassionate grounds. It’s an exception that allows people who are out of status in Canada but who are so established that removing them out of the country would cause them.

Miriam gathered all the documents she was asked to provide to prepare her application and waited impatiently for the answer.

Weeks and months went by; Miriam kept working in the marketing agency and her relationship with Andrew was progressing. They celebrated Canada Day together, took trips to Quebec City, Mont Tremblant, and explored small towns in the province of Quebec.

Some days she would catch herself thinking about how much she would miss Canada if eventually she would be asked to leave the country. What scared her even more – where would she go?

Even the thought of that made her sick; she missed her parents and would want to visit them whenever possible, but Belarus was never her home. Leaving Canada would have meant leaving a vital part of herself; leaving Canada would only mean losing herself.

In early November Miriam received an email from her lawyer; she was excited and ecstatic. The title of the email already revealed the content – “Wonderful news!” she read and quickly proceeded to open the email. Her application was approved!

Miriam’s voice was shaking because of how excited she was when she finally managed to call Andrew to tell him that Canada officially became her home! It was a long way home, filled with uncertainty and anxiousness, but she finally reached her destination.

Miriam knows that her story is unique. How many foreign diplomats based in Canada have children while being posted? How many of these kids make Canada their home? Miriam wonders.