Canadians separated from their foreign spouses due to border closures have launched a petition urging Ottawa to reunite them during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We hope more people learn about what’s going on and how difficult it is for people to be separated from their husbands, wives and partners,” said Emma Holmes of Ottawa, who started the campaign on Saturday.
“I am sure many Canadians are not in favor of separating couples, children and families if they are aware of it. This is not the raison d’être of Canada as a country. “
In March, Ottawa closed the border to non-Canadians, but made exceptions for immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. The ban was to limit the spread of COVID-19.
However, since April, the Canada Border Services Agency has begun to deny foreign spouses and children of Canadians entry to land border crossings and airports on the grounds that their movements are “non-essential and discretionary”.
Holmes, a graduate student from McMaster University, expressed concern about the impact of the border measures because her Austrian partner Larissa Kroell is neither a Canadian citizen nor a permanent resident.
The couple have seen each other for two years and have a long-distance relationship, with Holmes visiting whenever she has the chance. They have been separated since Holmes returned from a visit during the winter holidays.
She was scheduled to return again in April, and Kroell planned to apply for a student permit in the fall. But these plans are on hold and the couple fear that border restrictions will separate them much longer.
“I was surprised when I started to hear that even legally married couples with children were separated,” said the 23-year-old who has been with Kroell, also 23, since two years after their meeting in Canada. “Finding family members is essential.”
His petition calls on the federal government to declare the reunification of Canadian families “an essential trip” and to recognize a letter or sworn statement from a family member as proof of their relationship, given the difficulty of producing official documents. in the event of a pandemic.
To date, the petition has collected 900 signatures from supporters, including Daniel Pascale of Toronto, who has been separated from his common-law partner, Krista Partipelo, of New York, for almost two months.
Pascale, 27, who has a work permit in the United States, said that Partipelo had made two unsuccessful attempts to join him in Canada – once on March 20, in Lacolle, Quebec, just 90 minutes before the closure of the land border, then a month later, at Rainbow Bridge, Ontario, alone.
“We packed everything in our car and arrived at the border before midnight on March 20, but the border agency had started to apply the restrictions prematurely,” recalls Pascale, who ended up taking a taxi to Montreal this overnight so Partipelo, 30, could have the car to return to the United States “It was one of the most traumatic nights of our lives. “
After contacting immigration and border officials, the couple prepared all the documents they needed, such as leases and shared invoices, as well as letters of support from their families and their Canadian MP, Julie Dzerowicz. They also had a quarantine plan in place for her.
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On April 20, Partipelo went to the southern Ontario border, but was refused again. Pascale and her family were actually on the Canadian side of the border, waiting to welcome her.
“We did everything we were told and got a portfolio of evidence to prove our relationship. With all this hope accumulated, we have discovered that the intention of politics is really to prevent any non-resident from coming, “said Pascale, who has worked with Partipelo for two years.
“I was 100 feet from the Canadian border office, but I couldn’t even see or be near Kris. It was the most painful. ”