Amna Nawab.
Amna Nawab. Credit: Amna Nawab Credit: Amna Nawab

Nearly 500,000 new immigrants are expected to land in Canada in 2024.They come from around the world in search of better career opportunities, health facilities and living conditions. 

We all know there are various immigration categories and classes, but the Canadian government’s support for those who come under refugee, humanitarian, and compassionate classes is unparalleled, and must be acknowledged and appreciated.

Humanitarian and Compassionate class application is a way that foreign nationals can use to get permanent resident status in Canada.

What are Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) grounds?

Section 25 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act gives Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) the right to grant permanent residence to an applicant based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Anything that makes others feel compassion and want to help can be the basis for a successful Humanitarian and Compassionate application. 

One example of applications on compassion or emergency grounds is severe disruption to a relationship or domestic arrangement. 

The human rights and family environment situation for women in some South Asian countries and cultures is not very good. The prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) is 35 per cent higher than the global average. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) Eastern Mediterranean Region study (2021) of 10 developing countries most often, violence is perpetrated by the husband. 

I talked to a South Asian girl, Amna Nawab in Richmond Hill recently. She is a typical example of intimate partner violence (IPV) in South Asian cultures. She is well educated and belongs to a Canadian-Pakistani family. She was married, and frequently faced humiliation, insult, and spousal torture, which ultimately led to a break-up of the relationship.

My first question was about the circumstances that compelled her to leave home in an emergency situation like that one and come to Canada?

Amna replied very confidently “Dubai was my marital home for 14 years. I was in an abusive marriage. I took this step for the safety of my children and myself. My ex-husband threatened to hurt my two-year-old daughter. He threw me out of the house and withdrew all the kids. My marriage counsellor immediately informed my parents in Canada that I was under threat.”

M’y brother rushed, and I with my children left Dubai after informing my husband, to reach my parents in Canada, arrived here with four children in 2017,” she added.

What about your resident status in Canada?

She replied “After seeking further therapy, in person in Canada, I was able to understand my own situation. I consulted a lawyer to understand my human rights. Three months later, I tried to file for asylum on humanitarian grounds.”

“As a part of the application, I had to author my story that was verified by my counsellor in Dubai, family, and friends. I had arrived here with my kids and their passports. The lawyer having gone through my story concluded that I should file for a refugee claim,” she continued. “I surrendered our passports to the Canadian government to seek asylum. I felt the safest because no one could take kids away with our passports with the government. Later I sought custody of my children in family court, and I got it through normal legal proceedings.”

The last question was about the challenges she faced on arrival and settling in a new country?

She replied “It was difficult to feel at home, it has taken me several years to familiarize myself to this country that is our home. The ease with this hardship was the kindness with which we were treated-From schools, to doctors to courts. I had nothing but my truth and the patience with which Canadian officials and courts heard. It was something I had never experienced before.”

“I felt more accepted by the system, than the people I had trusted all my life,” she added. “Seeking divorce and child custody was the next big challenge. It took very long but I got custody of all of my children. We are permanent residents in Canada now. I feel this is a country where strenuous effort with honesty, does not go waste. Canada has given me and my children a new meaning to life, thanks Canada.”

This real story has many lessons for girls. Amna Nawab tolerated all kinds of emotional and personal abuses, still, she tried to adjust and make marriage successful. In South Asian cultures, the girls have a fear for the future after separation, so their tolerance level is relatively high. But enough was enough and finally, she took a bold step to leave home with the objective to live a good and happy life with a bright future for her four children. Now she is living a happy life, and all her children are doing very well in school.

This success was not possible without the support of the Canadian immigration program. But the girls need to be bold and courageous. Courage is nothing but an affirmative answer to the shocks of existence.

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Mehdi Rizvi

Mehdi Rizvi is a former member of the Community Editorial Board, Toronto Star and an affiliate of the Center of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement, which is a consortium of three...