Petition update

April 8, 2018 UPDATE -- We need your help with letters of support from your MP/MLA by April 20, 2018

Birken Forest Monastery

Apr 9, 2018 — First of all, thank you again to all the kind people who have signed this petition - Anumodana! We rejoice in your generosity and great merit.

Since our last update in August 2017, we would like to share the details of our recent efforts to obtain permanent residence (PR) status for Sister Mon – there is some more good news...and some new challenges.

Update on Legal Avenues
In January 2018, Sister Mon submitted an application to extend her current work permit, which has been approved and is valid until August 2019. In January, we also began to explore the Express Entry (EE) process in more detail, as an application pathway for permanent residency in Canada. The EE is based on a point system. To increase Sister Mon’s points, we prepared her information for the BC Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), to try to improve her chances of being selected. At that time, we decided to seek the advice of an attorney here in BC who is well versed with the requirements of both processes. With the help of a long-time supporter, we were connected with such an attorney who has been guiding us through the political and practical pros and cons of the BC PNP.

The Political Avenues
At the end of January and beginning of February we contacted MLA Todd Stone and MLA Jackie Tegart to ask for their support concerning Sister Mon's application. They both reached out to the Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology concerning the inadequacies in the BC PNP and apparent prejudices against monastics who have taken vows of poverty. Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) Rob Mingay responded: "that the senior nun who is seeking permanent resident status has contributed to your community in many valuable ways, and that monasteries and other religious institutions play an important role in the social and spiritual well-being of BC communities. However, the BC PNP is an economically-focused program and wage is a key way that the program is able to assess an individual’s likelihood to establish themselves in the labour market over the long term."

A Humanitarian Approach
Based on ADM Mingay’s assessment, and our communications with both MLA Stone and MLA Tegart, our attorney is now advising us to pursue the Humanitarian and Compassionate Considerations (HCC) route for Sister Mon's PR application. We have asked MLA Tegart, MLA Stone, MP Elizabeth May, and MP Cathy McLeod to write letters in support of Sister Mon's HCC application for permanent residency. To date, Sister Mon has received a letter of support from MP McLeod, and we are currently waiting for responses from MP May, MLA Stone and MLA Tegart.

HELP SISTER MON!
Now, we need your grassroots support! Please contact your local political leaders and ask them to write letters of support for Sister Mon’s PR application. Links to MLAs and MPs by region is included below for your convenience. We have also included an outline of “talking points” that may be helpful for you in guiding communications with your political leaders. The most important thing is to call. Your action could make an enormous difference to the process! Together we are a strong community.

In Sister Mon's HCC application, we would like to include as many letters as possible from government officials and Birken supporters (that means you!) Letters should be addressed to either "To Whom It May Concern" or the following address specifically for HCC Applications:
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada – Backlog Reduction Office
#600 – 605 Robson Street
Vancouver, B.C.
V6B 5J3

Please forward copies of your personal letters of support as well as the signed letters you receive from your MLAs and MPs to us at: meditate@birken.ca by no later than April 20, 2018.

Also, please sign this petition if you haven't already, and share this link with your social networks, asking your friends to sign as well.

Again, to each and every one of you who has signed this petition and left comments: Anumodana! Thank you very much! Remember that change begins in our hearts and minds.

Guideline for a Conversation with your MLA or MP
Find your BC MLA here: https://www.leg.bc.ca/learn-about-us/members
Find your AB MLA here: http://www.assembly.ab.ca/net/index.aspx?p=mla_report&memPhoto=True&alphaboth=True&alphaindex=True&build=y&caucus=All&conoffice=True&legoffice=True&mememail=True
Find your MP in BC here: https://www.ourcommons.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members?currentOnly=true&province=BC
Find your MP in Alberta here: https://www.ourcommons.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members?currentOnly=true&province=AB

Hi, my name is ____________. I’m calling you about an issue that is very important to me and my religious/spiritual community, do you have a few minutes to talk?

My spiritual community is served by a Buddhist monastery, called Birken Forest Monastery. It is located in Knutsford, BC, near Kamloops. This monastery has a very special Senior Nun who is from Thailand. Her name is Sister Mon. Sister Mon has been a part of our community, on and off, for more than 15 years. She is hoping to gain permanent residence in Canada.

[In your own words describe what Sister Mon has done for you, and the people you know.]

Sister Mon has applied for but has not been successful in obtaining Permanent Resident status in Canada. This is because she has taken a vow of poverty and does not earn any salary. This means that all she has done for me and other members of the community here in Canada, she has done without pay, and this counts against her, which seems wrong.

She is now applying under Humanitarian and Compassionate Considerations, and the whole community hopes she will be successful.

That is why I am calling you today. It seems like an oversight that Canada will accept as permanent residents people who want to make money here, but won’t accept them if they are willing to do work that serves people like me, for free. I am hoping you will help Sister Mon’s application by writing a letter of support, saying that she is important to constituents like me, and that you support her request for permanent residency.

Some suggestions for guiding further discussion with your MLA/MP are listed below. Please also include the benefits you have received from Sister Mon’s spiritual guidance and the important role she has at Birken.

• Birken would suffer a substantial hardship in the event of losing the considerable resources that Sister Mon provides. She supports and guides Birken’s visitors and resident community, and serves as a leader in the Abbot's absence.
• Sister Mon provides teachings and safe, accessible counsel to all who come to Birken, particularly women who may not feel comfortable discussing personal issues with a male monk.
• Being the only Thai Maichee in Canada, Sister Mon offers a rare opportunity for Westerners to learn and abide in the Buddha’s teachings from someone born and raised in Thai culture. Her cultural knowledge is also a valuable link to many Thai and other south Asian supporters.
• Sister Mon intimately knows the practical workings of the monastery, acquired over 15 years of living at Birken. This knowledge cannot be easily replaced.
• Granting Sister Mon permanent residency in Canada would be an act of compassion not only to her, but to Birken’s residents and large community of supporters. Just as a mother is an integral part of a traditional family, Sister Mon is an essential member of our monastery family.

[Then have a meaningful discussion!]

What you want him/her to do
Birken Forest Monastery is collecting letters to include in Sister Mon’s submission. You can give me a signed scanned copy of the letter you write by Friday April 20th, and I can deliver it. Or, your office can deliver it directly by emailing it to: meditate@birken.ca.

[NOTE: If they say they will deliver it themselves, indicate you will call in a week or two to check on it.]

Handling Objections, Deflections, and Suggestions from your MP/MLA
If your MLA/MP suggests the BC PNP program:
Actually Sister Mon has looked into the BC PNP with support from MLA Todd Stone and MLA Jackie Tegart for her application. She was told by Assistant Deputy Minister Rob Mingay that despite her significant contribution to social and spiritual well-being of the BC community, BC PNP is an economically-focused program, and so she is instead applying under Humanitarian and Compassionate Considerations.

If your MLA/MP says there is nothing they personally can do about it:
Actually, there is something you can do about it. A letter of support from you, indicating how important Sister Mon has been to your constituents will help a lot in the HCC process.

If you MLA/MP says Birken/Sister Mon is not in their riding:
Sister Mon is not in your riding, but I am, and so are many other people that she has helped. This letter of support for Sister Mon is really about supporting your own constituents, in our spiritual and religious practice, by keeping one of our key supporters in Canada for the long-term.


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