Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has reinstated immigration visas for 50 Moroccan families that were initially cancelled after being issued by mistake.
Mr. Kenney's decision ended four days of confusion and anxiety for applicants such as Rachida Iblihi, who had landed at Montreal's Trudeau International Airport with two young children on Friday, only to be told that their papers weren't valid.
Ms. Iblihi and her husband, Abdellatif Aghai, had applied to immigrate to Canada five years ago. The Moroccan couple were told last month by the Canadian embassy that they had been admitted as permanent residents. They sold their furniture and car, quit their jobs and bought plane tickets to Montreal. Ms. Iblihi, a lab technician, says she already had a job offer in Canada.
"They've got nothing left in Morocco," their immigration lawyer, Nadia Barrou said in a telephone interview.
It was only last Thursday that Canadian officials sent an e-mail to Ms. Barrou to notify her that the visas had been erroneously issued. Ms. Iblihi was already in transit to Canada when her lawyer tried to contact her.
When she landed in Montreal, her passport was taken by the immigration agent and she was told her visa had been cancelled. The family had applied under the Federal Skilled Worker Program. Last June, citing a large backlog, Ottawa terminated the program for those whose applications hadn't been decided yet.
"A small number of visas were issued inadvertently," Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesman Paul Northcott said in an e-mail reply to The Globe and Mail. "We regret the error and apologize to the individuals affected. We appreciate that they acted in good faith."
The department has not disclosed exactly how many visas were issued by mistake but Ms. Barrou said it was about 50 families. She said the blunder might have stemmed from the Canadian embassy in Rabat because it seemed to affect only applicants from Morocco.
She said her clients met the criteria of the program and would have qualified but for its suspension.
In a letter sent to Mr. Kenney last Saturday, Ms. Iblihi recounted that she and Mr. Aghai had been summoned to the Canadian embassy in Rabat on Oct. 10 and shown a video about Canada before getting their visas. They said they asked a consular officer whether it was really confirmed and were told they could go ahead and quit their jobs.
Mr. Aghai, an employee at a pharmaceutical firm, was supposed to arrive in Montreal in three weeks, remaining in Morocco because he is training the person who was replacing him at his old job.
"You won't regret it. My spouse and I are resilient and hard-working, our values are the same as those of Canadians," the letter pledged.