Time is quickly running out for a young Penticton family who last month were ordered out of Canada by the federal government.
Unless there is a last-minute reprieve, on June 13, Hardeep Singh Chahal, his pregnant wife Kamaldeep Kaur and three-year-old daughter, Keerat Kaur, will be on a plane to India with an uncertain future.
Several years ago, the parents were given 10-year visitor visas to come to Canada and subsequently work visas.
Shortly afterwards, they applied for refugee status. However, that claim and two subsequent appeals were denied in 2021 and 2022 because they were unable to provide adequate documentation to substantiate their claim.
Then last month, they were blindsided by a call from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada giving them just four weeks to pack up and go.
“We are just not ready to leave because we were hoping everything would be OK and suddenly we got that call and it was such a shock,” said Kamaldeep. “When we asked them (government) why we had to go, they said ‘These are the rules, these are the rules.’
“We really don’t want to leave because we have settled here and we are worried that we might not ever get to come back to our home in Canada. We have had so many good things here and people have been so good to help us and that’s why I want to stay here.”
About his feelings of having to leave Hardeep could only say, “It’s all blank for us right now.”
One of the couple’s biggest worries is for the health of their unborn baby, fearing Kamaldeep will not get the same quality of prenatal care that she would in Canada.
It will be extremely difficult for them to get jobs once they return to India because of their limited qualifications.
“I am pregnant now and in India everything is private and it’s expensive. We have to pay for every single thing, then how can we take care of our children?” said Kamaldeep. “It’s going to be really hard for us mentally, emotionally and physically.”
They’re also concerned about the schooling of their children.
“Compared to India, it’s really so good here for education,” said Kamaldeep, adding her daughter is already enrolled in preschool starting in September.
Prior to the government order, both parents had been working full time, mom at the Penticton Walmart and Hardeep was employed as an agricultural worker at a Naramata Bench winery.
At the time they got the notice to leave, their work visas were also cancelled and the couple was forced to borrow money to live on.
The pair also had to stop their volunteer work at Penticton Regional Hospital, something they had started as way of giving back for all the help they had received here.
Pierre Levesque is a 26-year retired veteran of the RCMP who has been working as an advocate to keep the family in Canada. He’s come to know them very well during their brief time here.
Now, the vineyard manager at Lake Breeze Vineyard and Winery, it was Levesque who hired Hardeep two years ago.
“He is hard working, reliable, dedicated and interested to learn and he gets along with people,” said Levesque. “I came across lots of people in my career (as an RCMP officer) and I wouldn’t stick my neck out for a lot of people in my life, but he is a family man and caring person.
“And hello, we have had reliable, trustworthy labour issues and we need to hire seasonal agricultural workers to fulfill our needs and now, at the 11th hour, they tell Hardeep and his family to leave.”
Someone else who is also working to help the family is Richard Cannings, member of Parliament for South Okanagan-West Kootenay.
While Cannings was unable to speak to the specifics of the case, his office issued a statement.
“We are working as hard as we can to provide a positive outcome in the matter of Hardeep and Kamaldeep and their daughter.”
They are appealing on behalf of the family to the office of IRCC minister Sean Fraser and will be passing along any correspondence from local constituents.
This story first appeared in the Penticton Herald and is republished as part of the Local Journalism Initiative