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#225: Immigrant sponsor challenges bill for welfare (fwd)
Friday 23 July 1999
Immigrant sponsor challenges bill for welfare
GEORGE KALOGERAKIS The Gazette (MONTREAL)
Francoise Dantes left Haiti for Canada in 1973. The nurse got married,
had two children and then started sponsoring family members to come
to Montreal. In all, 12 came. That included her father, two brothers, a
sister, their spouses and all their children. It was part of a
family-reunification program, one that is costing Dantes plenty.
That is because eight of her relatives went on welfare. Then a
flabbergasted Dantes began getting bills from the Quebec government.
Those bills have reached $71,000 - and continue climbing. That's why
Dantes is trying to file a class-action lawsuit against the province.
She wants the courts to annul sponsorship clauses that make Quebecers
financially responsible for relatives they sponsor. And she wants the
government to reimburse all the money they collected from sponsors.
Sponsorship limits vary. It is three years for a spouse and 10 years for
children, parents, grandparents, siblings or nieces and nephews.
Dantes's request said it wasn't explained to her that she would have to
repay the government if they went on welfare. "If (Dantes) thought that
one day they would demand that she reimburse such sums, she would never
have signed such an agreement,"the documents say. The 48-year-old, who
makes $43,000 a year, said she was never informed when family members
sought welfare. Dantes and her lawyers have compiled a list of 50 others
in the same situation. Documents state that many of those people are
out of work or make as little as $11,000 a year. Attached to the request
to launch a class-action suit is a 1998 report from Quebec ombudsman
Daniel Jacoby that says he received 400 complaints in the 18 months
since the province began cracking down on errant sponsors in 1996.
Before that, the government did little. The report says that sponsors
often don't understand the consequences of signing the sponsorship
forms. Many speak neither English nor French, and interpreters are not
used to explain the procedure. Between 1987 and 1995, Quebec paid out
$237 million to recent arrivals who, according to the law, should have
been looked after by their sponsors. Even though immigration is largely
a federal responsibility, Ottawa has signed agreements with Quebec that
let the province administer its own immigration programs. That's why
Dantes's class-action request is aimed at the Quebec's welfare and
immigration officials. Her demand was filed last week and is to be heard
on Aug. 18 by a Superior Court judge.