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Tears welled in Nuoha Badouri’s eyes as she described the pain of separation from her husband, who is in Saudi Arabia waiting for the Canadian government to grant him a visa to join his wife.
“I’ve been married for two years and we started the sponsorship process going on 16 months,” Badouri said. “My lawyers say the file is good, there are no errors, but because of the coronavirus, everything is stopped.”
Badouri was one of about 100 people who gathered at the Canadian immigration offices in Montreal on Saturday to express their frustration over government policies that have kept families apart. A series of rallies across Canada was asking for special temporary visas or modifications to the visa applications while families wait for immigration officials to complete their files. There are at least 5,000 applications currently awaiting action.
COVID-19 is a factor in some delays, but most of the applications predate the outbreak of the virus. There was already a backlog of claims held up by bureaucratic rules and, according to some protesters, discrimination against applicants from low-income countries.
“For 15 months, I’ve been sleeping alone,” Badouri said. “We’ve sent thousands of emails to (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada), but we don’t receive anything but automatic replies. I’m fighting for the right to be with my husband, especially now with this pandemic, which I’m facing alone. Justin Trudeau is with his family (Immigration Minister) Marco Mendicino is with his family. They are going to back to their spouses and children; I’m coming back alone every day to my empty walls.”
There’s an irony at a time when the virus is delaying her application, her husband is a doctor treating COVID-19 patients in Saudi Arabia.
“If he was here, he would working (in a CHSLD) for free,” Badouri said.
Roxane Walsh, a high school teacher on the West Island, met her husband in Montreal. He had been working here for five years when his application for refugee status was denied and he returned to his native Dominican Republic, where he restarted the process of moving to Canada.
Walsh started commuting back and forth to the Dominican Republic, where the couple’s second daughter was born, but she had to move back when the leave of absence from her job ended.
“It was hard on the children because they have a fragmented education,” Walsh said. “Their French is suffering because they were learning Spanish, and they have a lot of anxiety when they come back to school here.”
Walsh said she has spent thousands of dollars on legal and other fees, but “we’re still waiting. The Quebec government acceptance, which is supposed to take 20, 25 days, took us eight months, and now we have to wait for the federal approval.
“We applied for a visitors’ visa so that he could come help during the pandemic because we have a child in day care and a child in elementary school, and I have a son in high school, and I work. If there’s ever a case when one of us is in quarantine, I have no one to back me up, but they said no,” Walsh said.
“Now, we’re waiting for the family sponsorship and there’s an estimated processing date of December, which would be 12 months from when we applied, but we’re being told not to expect that.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020