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Unhappy Christmas for Ugandan man

Birth date error results in a 5-year ban from entry to Canada

A birthdate error means Frederick is banned from entering Canada for five years. — Submitted photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — This year the Spencer family’s Christmas plans have taken an unexpected turn. For the last three years Sandra Spencer has been doing everything in her power to bring a young man, Frederick, over to Newfoundland from Uganda, and for a while it seemed as though their prayers were going to be answered. But the Spencer family and Frederick have received word that not only would he not be making it to Canada in time for Christmas, but he has been banned from entering the country for the next five years. Spencer said that it all boiled down to a birth date error. “He knew his birth date was recorded wrong ever since he got his National ID and his passport, but he was told by someone he trusted to just leave it, because it would be easier to leave it than to try to get a change, because the Ugandan government doesn’t want to have anything to do with that anymore because 90 per cent of the population’s birthday is wrong over there. So we did everything. I mean, it was a sin because he got his criminal record check, everything. Criminal record check, his English test — it cost $600 for him to do the English test —­ everything he had to do, did and was successful with doing it,” said Sandra Spencer. “Even when we were there (Uganda), there were two boys found in the woods, and they’re told if the family sends them out, you cannot allow anyone to tell your name or the village you came from because they’ll send you back, but they’re sent out when their family can’t look after them. So Frederick wasn’t in that situation. He was orphaned when his parents died and the first caretakers gave him a birthday, and it was April 24, and after he applied for his National ID and his passport, it turned out his birthday is the 12th of December, 2001. But when he got the ID and the passport and everything, everything was falling in place with the Provincial Nomination Board. He had a job here waiting for him and a home, so he decided to just go ahead, and then when he had to have his biometrics done, which is fingerprinting and stuff, that had to go to IRCC, which is immigration, and they started questioning it. Then they asked, ‘when did he realize that his birth date was wrong,’ and he kind of beat around a bush. I just feel like it’s a very severe punishment for someone who’s really not a criminal.” Spencer couldn’t believe it when she found out and immediately reached out to everyone she could think of for assistance. “I was in touch with (MP) Gudie Hutching’s (Long Range Mountains) office and I said, he’s still trying to come to Canada. Her assistant said he’s banned for five years. IRCC has banned him for coming to try to come to Canada for five years, and I’m thinking, but like, what did he do? What the hell did he do to be banned for five years?” asked Spencer. “I’ve reached out to everybody that I can think of. I’ve written to the IRCC myself, and Allison, who’s with the provincial nomination program, she contacted me this morning and asked when did he know that his birth date was wrong, because she was reviewing the papers to see what went on, because it was through her that he got hired, and now we’ve got to let the guy know who hired him that he can’t come to Canada and that he can’t come for five years. It is heartbreaking.” The Christmas spirit might be a bit harder to come by in her home this holiday season as a result. “It was kind of hurtful yesterday when I was organizing things and I started picking out his Christmas gifts. I have his bedroom, his dresser drawers are stocked with clothes. I have winter clothes. I got boots, shoes, everything bought for him and I just can’t believe it. I know he screwed up, but I can’t believe we’ve got to wait five years, and I thought, like, I can’t do this all again,” said Spencer. “And I cannot believe that he’s got to wait five years. I said to him, had I known this from the beginning, I would have said, go get a new passport, go get a new ID. It might take longer, but go get it done, and this is what has gone wrong, that he just tried to push it through. I’m trying to push forward and try to get ready for Christmas because I’ve got a family here, but we’re all devastated. Frank is hurt. I haven’t even told the grandkids yet. Everybody was looking forward to him coming, and I cannot believe that this is going to keep him from coming home.” Even though the decision was made, there is a way to appeal, but that would require hiring a lawyer and Spencer was told by Gudie Hutching’s office that it would be extremely difficult to win, and the cost would be significant. “She (her assistant) said, to be honest with you, that’s a waste of time. I don’t think you’d win it. Frank reached out to (MHA) Andrew Parsons (Burgeo – La Poile). He doesn’t think there’s anything he can do because this is federal. We tried to do everything right by the book. I made sure that he did everything. His criminal record check, it meant days of traveling on the back of a motorcycle for three and four hours on a dirt road to get to the city and sleeping on the floor of his brother’s place because he couldn’t afford a hotel for two weeks, and just the English test alone was $600,” said Spencer. “Everything was looked after. He just wrote me a message, but I haven’t even been able to talk to him because I can’t look at him because all I do is cry, and he saw me cry the other day, and I said, ‘See, that’s why I didn’t want you to call’. I just can’t believe that all this time and all our work is for nothing. We’re not rich. I’ve sent him every cent that I can come up with monthly. I took my pension and sent some over so that he’d have enough money for everything that he needed, plus his life, and it’s just been a lot of work and worry for a full year, and then to get to this. It feels like such a kick in the stomach.” Having an error in your birth date is not uncommon in countries like Uganda. “Through all this, I used to say to Frank, ‘Don’t they have a clue what it’s like over there? Have they got any idea what it’s like over there’? They’ve got no idea. There’s millions and millions and millions of children that have no idea their birth date, their actual name, but it’s not important,” said Spencer. “They’re told all their life is not important, and they’re told all their life, don’t give your proper name because they’ll bring you back to the village you came from. It’s just a different way of life there.” Spencer feels as though she has exhausted all of her options. “I’ve reached out to everybody. I reached out to (MHA) Eddie Joyce (Humber – Bay of Islands) even, because I knew he was in Uganda. I wish now sometimes that I didn’t even go through all the proper channels, and I just got him here. I was trying to do everything right to get him here properly, and I was so happy that he had a job to come to. I fixed up his room, bought a new picture, put it in his room for him, had everything done. I said to him, ‘We’ll go to church first Sunday you’re here. We’ll go to church and thank God’, and I just can’t believe it has come to this after, like, a full year’s work. I can’t believe it. But I was working at it long before this year because I was in touch with immigration in Ottawa,” said Spencer. “He speaks fluent English. I can’t understand why it’s so hard to get him here, and they’re crying out for workers here. They are crying out for workers and I can’t get him here because of the damned birthday issue in Uganda, and that is probably going to haunt him for the rest of his life.” Spencer said that Frederick is equally as devastated by the news. “He did say in the letter, that was one of the first letters he wrote, and I can remember he said, ‘I didn’t think that this would determine my life,’ and that was a long time ago. He wrote that to IRCC. He said, ‘I just didn’t think that this would determine what happened in the rest of my life’, but it has determined his life, and I’m so afraid now, that I’m down enough, but I don’t want him to get down because if he does, he’s got no one there to help him,” said Spencer. “So I try to keep him up. I don’t even know how to keep him up now, and I have no idea where to turn. I don’t know where to turn. I’ve used every resource, every phone number I could think of, everything. And they determined somebody’s life, or lack thereof, on a mistake that he shouldn’t have made. He shouldn’t have made it. But it was a mistake. It wasn’t intended to be a criminal offense. No. Because birth date is not important over there. It’s not important at all. What’s important over there is that you show up. Just show up and you work.” The disappointment Spencer feels towards immigration is clear, and now her next step is to see if there is a lawyer out there who could possibly help her and Frederick, even pro bono, to try and get the appeal process started instead of having to wait those five years to try again. “I know people get help. I know that some immigrants have come. One young man came in on the PNP program, and he had to sell his house to come. It costs a lot of money, and for people that think that immigrants come for nothing, they’re wrong. Refugees probably come for nothing, not immigrants. Not immigrants. They have no idea what it costs, and everything that he’s needed to come for this job I’ve paid for. Not the job, not the employer, I’ve paid for it. So if I didn’t have the money, he couldn’t have even applied. Plus, he had to show that he had enough money to support himself once he got to Canada” said Spencer. “I took $5,000 off my pension and put it in an account for him, and I said to him, leave it there. Leave it there, because you have to show that you can support yourself. I don’t know how they do this. Like, to ban somebody from coming to Canada, and I’m thinking, we’re a free country. Like, who the hell are you to ban him? Because he reported the wrong birthday. So you’re keeping all the criminals out and terrorists, right? That’s what hurts me so much. How do other people get in? They’re obviously not screening them like they’ve done with Frederick. They obviously don’t know anything about Uganda and the goings on over there, which, like, you know, my daughter Jennifer and I went there so she wasn’t shocked, and I wasn’t shocked that it was a birthday issue. I was shocked because I didn’t know that it would be a birthday issue that would ban him for five years, is what I mean. Like, in the name of God, who would have ever thought that that would keep you from coming to a country? It’s almost laughable.”

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