The “Lonely Canadian” class is a euphemism for a class of sponsors who, under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, can sponsor any relative regardless of membership in the Family Class, provided that they have no one from the Family Class who they can sponsor. This stream is meant to help a person without close family members – being spouses, children, parents, grandparents or orphaned nieces and nephews – to unite with any other family member and bring them to Canada. The purpose is to alleviate “loneliness” by allowing for some kind of family connection in Canada. It is a provision which demonstrates compassion and an understanding of the often-harsh reality of living in a country without any blood relation.
The debate over the section has centred on whether it applies to Canadians who have family members technically falling under the Family Class, but who cannot realistically be sponsored due to illness, or another inadmissibility. Common sense suggests that it should. If the purpose of the section is to bring family to a Canadian who cannot otherwise be with any sponsorable family, then the fact that a prohibited family member is alive should not be relevant, if they in fact cannot be sponsored. They cannot come to Canada so the Canadian remains lonely!
Well, not so, said the Federal Court of Appeal recently. The Lonely Canadian Class only applies if members of the Family Class, such as spouses or other sponsorable family members, do not exist – either because they are deceased or simply never existed. In the Sendwa case, the sponsor attempted to bring her niece to Canada. Her own parents were alive but could not be sponsored – ever – given that her father was medically inadmissible. The Federal Court of Appeal took a narrow approach to the interpretation of section 117(h) of IRPA, deciding that because her parents were still alive, she was not a “Lonely Canadian” as per the law. It is a difficult decision to rationalize, but there it is. Because the Applicant’s parents are barred from Canada, she will remain a lonely Canadian without access to the compassion meant for that class of people.