11/23/2013 04:37 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST

The Sad Loss of the Walji Family

It is with great sadness that I find myself writing an article regarding the death of the Walji family from London, Ont. For those who are unfamiliar with this case, the Walji family were all found dead in their apartment on Oct. 31, victims of an apparent murder-suicide. Their tragic deaths have left the community heartbroken and asking difficult questions. The police continue their investigation and I hope that friends and family will soon have some answers.

We may never know the whole truth about the factors which led to this tragedy. Nonetheless it is clear to me that our immigration system is in need of a significant set of reforms. Immigration is a complex process and the specifics of this case are not public. I have spoken with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration about this tragic case and voiced my concerns about the family's situation. As in all immigration cases, the details of the case remain confidential, as they should. Any information about the family's situation will remain undisclosed due to their tragic deaths and to respect their privacy.

It is difficult to speak about such a tragedy when the facts are unknown; it is all too easy to point fingers and look for someone to blame. Assigning blame will not bring this family back, but staying quiet and not learning from this sad case will only add to the tragedy. We can look at the facts we have and learn important lessons about what families face seeking permanent residency in Canada.

I think it is important for everyone to understand that the Walji family were hard working members of the community. They lived in Canada for 15 years, and sought permanent residency. They worked, paid taxes, volunteered in the community, giving back many times over for the opportunity they thought that Canada was giving them. This included their daughter Qyzra, who despite her physical challenges had successfully graduated from high school and volunteered time in the community when she was able to do so. Those who knew the family pointed out that Qyzra's parents assumed the cost of her care. As many of us with a disabled child or other family member would understand, she was not a burden. She was simply loved.

What I and other New Democrats are continuing to advocate for is a system which is faster, and fairer. Recent cuts to public service jobs have reduced staffing levels and increased workloads across most federal departments, including Citizenship and Immigration Canada. We need to ensure that the department of Citizenship and Immigration is properly staffed and resourced in order to reach decisions on applications in a fair and timely manner. We believe the system should not leave people in limbo for years waiting for a decision on an application.

This terrible tragedy has shown us that we need to discuss and reform our immigration system in the House of Commons, not to lay blame, but to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.

Compassion was always our strength. We need to rekindle that in our public policies.


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