'It's maddening'

CARY CASTAGNA -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:18 PM ET

Graham Hughes says all he wants from the federal government is a little compassion.

The British-born Edmontonian has been trying to get back to his native England for the past two weeks to see his ailing mother - who died yesterday morning.

But he's been stuck in a travel-document nightmare that he says is driving him mad.

"I'm in total complete limbo, which should not exist for anyone," Hughes, 66, told the Sun yesterday.

"There must be a lot of people that find themselves in similar situations."

Unfortunately for Hughes, a Canadian citizen since 1974, his passport expired a while ago.

But before he can apply for a new passport, Hughes has to apply for a new proof of citizenship card because he misplaced the one he was originally issued.

The retiree did that earlier this month, almost immediately after learning his 89-year-old mother had suffered a massive stroke.

But because Hughes didn't include a proper method of payment - he said he enclosed a $75 Canada Post money order - the immigration office in Nova Scotia that processes the cards is mailing back his application.

At this rate, Hughes doesn't expect to make it to his mom's funeral - especially in light of the long lineups at the passport office that he still has to contend with.

"It's maddening," he fumed, calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to institute a compassionate telephone line for Canadian immigrants who have to leave the country for emergencies. "Mr. Harper, do something for all of us little poor people in this country."

Hughes added that he is an only child and needs to get to England as soon as possible to put his mom's affairs in order.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesman Randy Gurlock said he sympathizes with anyone who has an urgent travel need, but he said the application process is necessary to guard against fraud.

Gurlock said Hughes did the right thing by marking his application "urgent" for a family emergency, and that every effort is made by staff to expedite the application.

"You have to follow the instructions. If you don't do so, they're going to send the application back," he said.

"They try to be fair to everybody. It's always a balancing act."


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