Posted by Joanna Smith, Ottawa Bureau
UPDATE: A spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said the department is still investigating, but so far it looks like the Canadian Embassy in Paris (which processes medical examination results for the region including Ghana and Nigeria), had technical difficulties uploading the results.
"We’re still investigating what happened, but so far it appears to be an isolated incident, which originated as a technical problem with uploading the medical results in the computer system," spokeswoman Nancy Caron said in an interview Monday (June 6) after once again apologizing for the errors. "So now the mission in Accra is working with the mission in Paris, which handles the medical examinations for the region, to determine the cause of the issue and prevent it from happening again.”
Caron would not comment on why Ekpunobi received the questionnaire about drinking problems.
"It is (a) very personal health question and I would really feel uncomfortable to do that," said Caron, although the couple in question believe the questionnaire was also sent in error.
It's always nice for a journalist to hear when a story she was covering ends well for everyone involved.
Two weeks ago I started looking into the case of a Nigerian couple who have been kept apart since they were married in September 2009 because the federal government made a series of costly mistakes while processing their visa application.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada apologized for the errors after my inquiries prompted officials to take a closer look at the case.
On Monday I got a call from the husband, Gideon Christian, who was giddy with the good news that his wife, Isabella Chinelo Ekpunobi, had finally received her visa to join him in Canada when she arrived at the High Commission in Accra, Ghana.
"I am so happy," he said over and over again as he laughed into the telephone.
Ekpunobi is going to hand in her resignation from her job as an in-house lawyer at the Nigerian Television Authority and then join her husband in Ottawa, where he is doing his doctoral studies in law -- something he had seriously thought about abandoning this summer so he could return to Nigeria to get on with his marriage.
The couple hopes to be reunited on Canada Day.
Gideon thanked me personally for helping them out, which something that is always strange for a journalist to hear. I didn't really do anything to help them. I just asked a bunch of questions and wrote down the answers in a way that made for an interesting story.
But really, sometimes that is all the help someone needs when they are up against a faceless bureaucracy that notes their concerns but doesn't really listen or take a step back to notice that something is terribly wrong.
The backlog of unresolved immigration cases is huge. There are an unknown number of stories like the one I told about Gideon and Isabella and yes, it does seem unfair that their case gets resolved so quickly (if nearly 21 months instead of the eight they were told it would take can be considered "quick") just because a reporter starts nosing around.
It would be impossible for every would-be immigrant to Canada to plead their case to the media in this way (and many who do see no quick results anyway). The staff in the office of Liberal MP Mauril Belanger (Ottawa-Vanier) had been making calls on this particular case for months with little progress, even though emails went through the office of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
But maybe if government officials (both in Ottawa and embassies around the world) tried a little harder to treat case numbers as individual people who deserve to be listened to and given a serious answer when they ask a serious question (such as: "Why are we being asked for medical tests three different times when your own file notes the first request was sent in error?") there would be more stories that end well.