By Mark Brett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
For an immigrant family from Penticton, what began as a week of fear and uncertainty has turned into a new lease on life in their adopted homeland.
After getting a one-week delay on a June 13 deportation order, on Tuesday, Hardeep Singh Chahal, his wife Kamaldeep Kaur and three-year-old daughter Keerat Kaur, were informed by the government the delay is now “indefinite.”
In addition, they have been invited to reapply for their cancelled work visas.
“I just feel so good now. For the last few days there was just so much going through our minds, just so little hope and now this,” said Kamaldeep through her tears of joy in a telephone interview from the Surrey motel where they’ve been staying while waiting for the flight out. “We were talking in the morning and if they had not called us, we would have been on an airplane now and leaving our home.
“For our future I have so many positive things to think. I now have this hope that we will be able to stay. That this will be our home and our children’s home forever.”
Keerat was born in Canada and Kamaldeep is expecting their second child.
Especially overwhelming for the family was the community response to their situation after the story first appeared in the June 3 print edition of The Herald.
“I just can’t understand how I can say thanks to everybody who has helped us stay here, I just can’t explain it,” said Kamaldeep. “For whoever helped us, to everybody who, did thank you so much. We will never forget this help.”
After the story appeared in multiple publications through the Local Journalism Initiative program, more than 100 emails were received and forwarded by member of Parliament Richard Cannings’ office to the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
“I think the community support made a difference,” said Cannings Tuesday in a phone interview from Ottawa. “I’m not surprised at all about that support. I think that’s an indication that they have all that support and with that support comes hope.”
Jula Sukumar-Dyer, Cannings’ constituent assistant who has worked tirelessly on the matter agreed.
“I think it is all the community letters and the case that we made for the family is super important and caught their (government) attention.
“There was a really good reason for us and the community to advocate and I’m just so happy the government was able to see the reasons through our eyes.”
And while there is still a process they’ll have to go through to get their Canadian citizenship, according Sukumar-Dyer, their future looks bright.
“We’re still waiting for some more news, but things are moving very quickly and moving in a positive direction,” she said. “Honestly, deportations are really hard to turn around, but I think it can happen.”
Another person who is very happy with Tuesday’s news is Hardeep’s former employer and the man who brought the family’s plight to public attention, Pierre Levesque.
“We’re all just so happy, I feel like a million bucks,” said Levesque. “It is heartwarming for me. I mean I get to keep a very talented tractor operator, but I guess for me it goes a little deeper than that.”
The family was returning home to Penticton Tuesday evening and was planning to meet with officials of the city’s Sikh Temple who also stepped up to help after learning about their situation.
“The family is not finished with this yet and they still have to carry on with the process and so if they need help with that one we will,” said Temple member Jesse Garcha. “Anything we can do to help the couple we will.”