SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – Eddie Hackett refuses to give up on his marriage.
“It’s been almost nine years of fighting for each other. I refuse to believe it’s the end of the road.”
The 64-year-old Island man has been with his husband, Rey Roque Cunanan, since Jan. 10, 2010, after they met online via Facebook.
“One day I got this friend request. And then a message from him. So, we began talking, and kept talking, and eventually decided that we were in a relationship.”
There's only one catch: Cunanan, 46, lives in the Philippines.
“We were talking every day, twice a day. And we always ‘see you later’ — it was never goodbye.”
The next summer, they decided to take the next step in the relationship.
“I bought us wedding rings,” said Cunanan.
“We both decided we would do a marriage, thing,” said Hackett with a smile.
But it would be another six years before the ceremony.
“In April 2016, I flew to the Philippines and we had a holy union," said Hackett. "Same-sex marriage isn’t legal over there. But we did the whole thing. The mass, the communion, the whole bit. But I spent a fabulous two weeks with him and his family.”
“We’re going to keep applying because we want to be together. But it’s hard on us both and our families. I’m going to do everything I can do and have to do. We can’t just give it all up.”
The next year, Hackett began looking into ways to bring his husband to Canada, even if only for a visit so they could legally marry. After talking with people who worked in immigration, they advised that the best route for the couple would be the conjugal relationship visa program.
A little over a week ago, the pair was given devastating news. Cunanan’s application had been denied.
“After 17 months, sending in hundreds of photos to prove the relationship, paperwork, medical checks, everything that was needed, the whole works, we were denied,” said Hackett.
In this case, Cunanan’s paperwork was processed by the embassy in London, England.
According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, immigration decisions on spouse/partner applications are made by officers of that government department.
“When a sponsorship application for a spouse or partner is received by IRCC, it is checked by a team of trained staff to see whether the applicant has included all of the forms and documents required by the relevant document checklist (or, if something is missing, a written explanation of why it could not be provided),” said Shannon Ker, a spokesperson for IRCC.
“If the application has all of the necessary forms and documents, the applicant is then sent an acknowledgement letter which includes their application number. If a spouse/partner application package is returned, the applicant should review the feedback provided on the checklist, where IRCC identified where the problem was.”
Hackett said the reason they were denied was an inability to demonstrate a barrier making it impossible for them to live to together for a year, which is a stipulation under the conjugal relationship application.
“I don’t understand how they expect us to live together for a year when they won’t give him a visa to Canada and they expect me to give up everything I have, my job, our place, and move to the Philippines and live in his family home in a village for sixth months, only to be sent back to Canada before the year is up.”
Hackett says if he were to go, he would be able to stay for six months and then have to apply for a visa and be approved to stay for the remainder of the period.
“I just don’t know what we can do now.”
Hackett says when he broke the news to his husband, he was heartbroken.
“I think this denial is unfair and it broke my heart to get. I feel numb inside because I lose my husband and best friend,” said Cunanan.
He added that when he first met Hackett he knew he’d met his soulmate.
“I first think to Eddie as a very good guy. I fall in love to him and first time we meet, God, so happy. I finally meet soulmate, the one I want to marry. I find true love in a small, but too meaningful world.”
Hackett says this isn’t the first time they’ve been denied.
“Rey had applied four other times for a visitor’s visa, but was denied on those too. They’ve also denied him visas to countries where it’s legal for us to get married.”
Now the pair feels stuck.
“We’re going to keep applying because we want to be together. But it’s hard on us both and our families,” said Hackett.
“I’m going to do everything I can do and have to do. We can’t just give it all up.”