A Barbadian woman living in Canada fears she could soon be wandering the streets of Barbados with her blind and heavily dependent son, Ramon if she loses an uphill battle against being sent back.
Sylvia Williams, now 62, has spent the last eight years in Toronto. She told Barbados TODAY the Canadian Government has accepted her 31-year-old son’s bid for permanent status but denied hers. According to her, poor legal representation, fraud and strained family relations have jeopardised her status in the North American nation, leaving her locked in Judicial Review proceedings aimed at reversing the Immigration’s decision.
In the meantime, Williams is the subject of a removal order and can be deported at any time by the Canadian Border Security Agency.
The desperate mother explained her son damaged an optic nerve in 1988 while undergoing brain surgery at a Toronto hospital.
“He’s an adult but he cannot manage independently. There are some developmental issues resulting from the surgery. I don’t know how much damage has taken place but I know my son and I lived with him all his life, so I know what he is capable of and what he is not capable of. He wouldn’t be able to get around or manage properly,” she complained.
“He hasn’t had a seizure for a little while but you don’t know what is going to happen. I will be thousands of miles away and then I wouldn’t be able to return. What’s going to happen to my son? Will I have to wait until somebody finds him in an apartment somewhere?” she cried.
The mother and son went to Canada on December 23, 2011 at the invitation of a sibling who did not like the conditions under which they had been living in Barbados. After staying for six months, she applied for an extension and was granted a one-year temporary resident visa until June 2013.
Williams, who operated a bakery and variety store in Barbados, said she was embroiled in a bitter land dispute and “other issues” in Barbados, which she claimed, led to death threats against her. Meanwhile, her son faced harassment and discrimination because of his “developmental issues”.
Intending to stay in Canada, Williams sought professional assistance with an application for permanent residency from someone who represented himself as an authorised immigration official.
However when called into an interview sometime after, Canadian authorities said her case had never been recorded, forcing her to forfeit her status in the country. She was then informed at an immigration hearing that her son’s refugee claim would be accepted but hers would likely be rejected.
In February 2018, her worst fears were realised and her son was granted permanent residency under the status of a “protected person” while hers was refused.
“I found it strange that my son, who has a disability and relies on me solely for help was accepted and I was refused,” said Williams.
She explained that after paying lawyers and approaching other high level officials to find out what could be done to assist her, she was last approached by the Canadian Border Security Agency who informed her she could be removed from the country at any time.
“I was really scared, I’ll tell you the truth…and now I am awaiting a call [from border security]. It is nerve wracking, I’m telling you,” she said, while explaining: “In Barbados I have nowhere to go. I have lost everything. I don’t have anywhere to go,” she said sobbing.
As a result, she filed a judicial review in July 2019 to challenge the decision.
“I just want to know that if anything should happen, my son would be safe. To return him to the country he is being protected from [Barbados] would be useless, because he doesn’t want to return. He faced harassment and discrimination because of his disability,” said the emotional mother.
“I would have to take him with me and that would be another problem emotionally. Canada also has a better healthcare system for him in his situation, because he had surgery here and all of his medical records from young are here. I went through a lot with him…we went through a lot,” she said sobbing.
Williams said back in 2017, she contacted the Barbados Consulate in Toronto, but received no meaningful assistance.
“I went to them for an interview and they promised to look for someplace in Barbados for me to reside, but when I called back to remind the person, the person said they didn’t know anything about it and they couldn’t remember me. So I left it at that…because I knew where they were coming from,” she said.
After learning the Mia Mottley administration had appointed new overseas representatives, she said: “I am now willing to go back…because all of this is not fair.”
Barbados TODAY reached out to Barbados’ High Commissioner to Canada, Reginald Farley, who said he was not aware of the case.
While Williams has five siblings, who have been living in Canada for over 40 years, she is not convinced they are willing to accept the responsibility of caring for her son.
“They’re not going to take care of Ramon. I know what family gives. When you come [to Canada] it’s one thing, but when you stay a while it’s something different. No, they’re not going to take care of my son,” she said.
“I have never directly asked, but I know for a fact, because there isn’t a good relationship between us. We communicate to a certain extent but there really isn’t that bonding, sorry to say. It is all right to go and visit, but I have realised that when you come and live, your family goes through a transition. You don’t have to do them anything wrong,” she explained.
While Williams is not currently working full time, she has been volunteering in her community and helping a woman with her children for a stipend which helps with food, accommodation and travel.