“It seems crazy to him to leave a Caribbean island … where there is no COVID. I leave our other island in eastern Canada where there is no COVID either, and here we are leaving, leaving our shelters … And we are leaving for Europe because I don’t know how long, “said Carly Fleet at CTVNews.ca during a phone call Monday from Grand Manan, NB
None of the 165 cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick have been traced to Grand Manan, an island in the Bay of Fundy. The 23 patients in Grenada have all recovered. But travel restrictions in both countries mean that neither Fleet nor his common-law partner Sean Bodden can visit the other.
They last met in late February, weeks before the pandemic disrupted global travel and Grenada closed its borders. Like many Caribbean countries, it delayed plans to reopen after Antigua and Barbuda announced dozens of cases in the weeks after tourists returned. This means that Fleet, a Canadian citizen, cannot enter the country.
What would happen less if Bodden attempted to enter Canada is less clear. Those seeking to reunite with Canadian spouses or common-law partners have been officially allowed to enter the country for about a month, but many couples have reported difficulties in bringing in the non-Canadian partner, even when they have what ‘they believe to be sufficient proof of their relationship.
The Canada Border Services Agency has stated that there are no fixed criteria for a non-Canadian partner to cross the border. Instead, individual border guards have the power to decide who enters “based on the information they have at the time of processing”.
Although Bodden has a lease showing that he and Fleet have been together for more than a year – respecting the time required by the government for a relationship to be considered a common-law partner – their situation is complicated by the fact that they spent some time during this time apart, each in their own country.
For Fleet, trying to get their partner into Canada is “like playing Russian roulette,” as she said, because a border guard may decide they haven’t been together long enough to be admissible.
“We have heard so many horror stories from married couples and all kinds of different situations where people have tried it. Some pass, others don’t, “Bodden told CTVNews.ca Monday during a Grenada phone call.BORDER MATTERS
If Bodden is denied entry to Canada, it is not at all clear where he could go next, as his citizenship is Trinidadian and not Grenadian – and neither country has reopened its borders.
“If I am turned back at the border, I may not be able to return to Grenada and I will certainly not return to Trinidad,” he said.
Given the inability to travel between their two coronavirus-free communities, Fleet and Bodden instead booked air tickets to a distant country that reports hundreds of new COVID-19 cases per day.
Friday, they will have their long awaited meeting in Paris. They will not stay there, because Trinidad and Tobago is not among the 14 countries whose citizens are allowed to join the European Union. Instead, they will fly to Istanbul.
They also booked tickets to take them from Turkey to Belgrade, Serbia, but a recent spate of COVID-19 cases has resulted in certain restrictions being re-imposed. Fleet is concerned that the situation may worsen when his flight arrives.
“Before Friday, I don’t know if we can still enter the country,” she said.
Bodden and Fleet are hardly the only semi-Canadian couple separated by border measures. Many of them are in contact with each other online, and Fleet says she is aware of certain situations which she considers worse than hers, including the separated parents of the newborns they have not yet met and women who are experiencing high risk pregnancies without their partners.
She says she first understood why the rules were in place to protect public health and could live with that, but recent news that the government is guaranteeing access to professional baseball and hockey players has led to wonder why this is feasible for athletes but not for couples.
“I cannot stay in a country that will give priority to sports over family,” she said.
“We are certainly not defending the opening of borders. We understand that the security of Canadian citizens must be foremost. We would simply like certain exemptions to be granted so that committed couples and families can reunite. “
‘I WILL DO EVERYTHING’
Whether they end up in Serbia, Turkey or Croatia – the very few countries that they believe meet their criteria for currently accepting Canadians and Trinidadians, not requiring them to quarantine and be reachable from Paris – Fleet and Bodden will have no local ties, no understanding of the language, no accommodation booked and no idea how long they will stay.
“We just thought, ‘If we want to be together, we have to do something dramatic,’ then we started looking at countries that … accept foreigners,” said Fleet.
“We just resigned ourselves to the fact that we don’t know exactly where we’re going. ”
It is not their first choice. They say that since it became clear that they could not spend the summer together in New Brunswick, they have gone from plan to plan after plan, only to readjust as the pandemic continues and restrictions on trip are extended.
As new COVID-19 case rates pick up again in the Balkans, they expect Friday not to be exactly the way they want it to be either – but they still expect to meet in Paris, and will find the rest from there.
“We have made so many plans in the past and we had the doors closed that we keep trying until we succeed,” said Bodden.
“I will do anything to be with her.” I don’t care where it is. “