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Canadian-American couple devastated after Canada won't recognize their FaceTime wedding – CBC.ca

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A Canadian-American couple were devastated to discover that Canada won’t recognize their marriage, performed with only the groom present at the wedding while the the bride participated via FaceTime.

“It broke my heart,” said Lauren Pickrell, 35, of Windsor, Ont. She has been separated from her American partner, Mark Maksymiuk, since early March due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. 

The couple had hoped that by getting married, they could reunite in Canada, which allows American spouses to enter the country.

“I had really high expectations because I felt in my heart that we did everything right,” Pickrell said. 

She and Maksymiuk, 32, were legally married on July 6 and have a valid marriage licence from the state of Kansas. 

The catch is that only Maksymiuk was physically present at the official wedding ceremony in Kansas City, Kan. Pickrell later participated via FaceTime in an informal ceremony for the couple, held at a chapel in neighbouring Kansas City, Mo. Kansas City straddles the two states.

Maksymiuk married Pickrell over FaceTime on July 6 while he was in a wedding chapel in Kansas City, Mo., and she was near Windsor, Ont. Earlier that day, Maksymiuk attended a proxy marriage ceremony in the state of Kansas after obtaining a marriage licence there. (Submitted by Mark Maksymiuk)

U.S. immigration law will recognize marriages in which only the bride or groom was physically present at the ceremony — known as a proxy marriage — once the couple physically unite.

Canada, however, is not on board. Maksymiuk said he discovered this when he tried to enter the country and explained the details of his proxy marriage when questioned by a border officer.

“His exact words were, ‘You know, we don’t view this type of marriage as valid,'” said Maksymiuk, who was denied entry to Canada. “I was crying. I broke down.”

Proxy marriages legal in Kansas

Maksymiuk lives in Royal Oak, Mich., about 26 kilometres from Pickrell’s home in Windsor. Despite the short distance, the couple remain apart.

To help stop the spread of COVID-19, Canada has banned foreigners from entering for non-essential travel. On top of that, the U.S. land border is closed to Canadian visitors. Canadians can still fly to the U.S., but Pickrell said she can’t get enough time off work right now to travel and then self-isolate for two weeks upon her return. 

Canada recently loosened its travel restrictions to allow immediate family to enter, including spouses and common-law partners.

Committed couples who don’t meet the criteria have scrambled for solutions, including marriage — if they can get to the same location.

Henry Chang, a business immigration lawyer in Toronto, says Kansas ended up legalizing proxy marriages by neglecting to spell out in the law who must attend a wedding. Maksymiuk would likely be allowed to enter Canada if he and Pickrell redo their wedding ceremony in the U.S. — together, Chang says. (Submitted by Henry Chang)

Pickrell and Maksymiuk searched for a possible alternative and discovered a little known fact: Couples can legally marry in Kansas in a proxy ceremony. The two decided to give it a shot.

“If you really love someone, you do whatever it takes,” Pickrell said.

Henry Chang, a business immigration lawyer in Toronto, said Kansas wound up legalizing proxy marriages by neglecting to spell out in the law who must attend the wedding. 

“They just forgot to mention that both parties had to be present in order for the ceremony to be legal,” said Chang, a partner with the law firm Dentons.

“Because of that, it’s implied that you can get away with it.”

Groom denied entry into Canada

To seal the deal, Maksymiuk flew to the state of Kansas, where he obtained a marriage licence and attended a proxy ceremony in Kansas City, Kan., set up by Your Magical Day wedding chapel, which specializes in proxy marriages. Your Magical Day then held an informal ceremony for the couple at a nearby chapel in Kansas City, Mo. 

“It’s in a strip mall,” Maksymiuk said. “It almost feels like you’re walking into a doctor’s office, but there’s, like, ribbons and bows and stuff on the wall.”

Pickrell appeared via FaceTime on an iPad. At the time, she was at her job as a kitchen supervisor at a restaurant just outside Windsor. Her boss and co-workers joined her for the ceremony while her family tuned in from Montreal.

“It was perfect,” Pickrell said. “I never wanted to have a big wedding.”

Pickrell is shown on a computer screen as she takes part in her FaceTime wedding on July 6 from her workplace — a restaurant just outside Windsor, Ont. Her boss and co-workers joined her for the ceremony while her family tuned in from Montreal. (Submitted by Mark Maksymiuk)

But things fell apart five days later at the Detroit-Windsor border when Maksymiuk tried to enter Canada and was denied entry.

“It was absolutely devastating,” he said. 

In 2015, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) stopped recognizing proxy marriages unless the bride or groom is a member of the Canadian military.

IRCC told CBC News that it made the change due to concerns that proxy marriages could involve an unwilling spouse who never consented. 

Maksymiuk said the government’s position is frustrating, as he and Pickrell have been in a committed relationship for almost five years.

“It doesn’t seem right or fair.”

What are the options?

Chang, the Toronto lawyer, said Maksymiuk would likely be allowed to enter Canada if he and Pickrell redo their wedding ceremony in the U.S. — together. 

“Unfortunately, that’s the only way to save it.”

Because that’s currently not an option, the couple hopes the federal government will broaden its immediate family exemptions to allow more couples to reunite. 

“It’s a difficult time to be alone, and they need to recognize that,” Pickrell said. “Love is essential and love is not tourism.”

Ever since the government introduced its immediate family exemptions in June, it has faced pressure from separated families and couples who don’t meet the criteria. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada told CBC News last week that it’s reviewing its definition of immediate family while still keeping in mind the risks posed by international travel during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Pickrell and Maksymiuk say they have no regrets about their proxy marriage, which allowed them to celebrate their love — albeit remotely.

“It made me really happy,” Pickrell said. “Mark is my husband. No one can tell me different.”

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Canada reports 220 Coronavirus new cases, 6 more deaths

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Canada reported 220 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Saturday, as well as six more deaths.

Saturday’s numbers bring the country’s total COVID-19 infections and fatalities to 119,187 and 8,976, respectively. As of Aug. 8, a further 103,566 — or 86 per cent — of patients infected with the coronavirus have recovered. Over 5.12 million tests have also been administered across the country.

The new numbers, however, do not reflect all regions across the country as several provinces — including British Columbia, Alberta, P.E.I. and all the territories — do not report new COVID-19 data on the weekends.

Quebec, the hardest-hit province in Canada, reported 126 new cases of the virus on Saturday raising its total infections to 60,367. Five more deaths, including one that occurred before July 31, were also announced.

Ontario announced 70 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, raising its total confirmed cases to 39,967. Saturday marks the sixth day the province has seen daily case counts below the 100 mark. One more death linked to the coronavirus was also reported by the province on Aug. 8, raising its death toll to 2,784.

Manitoba recorded an additional 16 lab-confirmed or “probable” cases of the coronavirus on Saturday. The new numbers were not reflected in Global News’ tally as only lab-confirmed cases are counted. Saturday’s reporting brings the province’s total lab-confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases to 507.

Saskatchewan announced an additional 24 cases of the virus, raising its provincial total to 1,433. No new deaths were reported by the province, with its COVID-19 death toll standing at 20. A further 1,245 patients have also recovered from the virus in Saskatchewan.

No new cases were announced by Nova Scotia on Saturday, with the province only having two active cases of the virus.

New Brunswick also reported zero new cases on Saturday, with the province only grappling with six active cases. The Maritime region has seen a total of 176 cases and two deaths.

Newfoundland and Labrador also recorded zero new cases of the virus on Saturday during its daily briefing. The province has seen 267 cases and three deaths from the virus and currently has one active case.

 

In a statement Saturday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that an average of 48,360 people were tested daily over the past week, with one per cent testing positive. According to Tam, there has been an approximate average of 400 new cases reported daily across the country.

Tam’s statement also highlighted her previous remarks on the upcoming school season in September.

“Across the country, jurisdictions are announcing plans for reopening schools, which take into account the local context and epidemiology of COVID-19,” read her statement.

 

“Now that our collective efforts have flattened the curve and brought COVID-19 spread under manageable control, with increased capacity and public health measures in place to keep it that way, we must now establish a careful balance to keep the infection rate low, while minimizing unintended health and social consequences.”

Worldwide, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 19.4 million people, according to a running tally kept by John Hopkins University. Over 723,000 people have died from COVID-19 as well.


The United States, Brazil, India and Russia continue to be among the countries with the highest amount of coronavirus cases in the world.

Source: – Global News

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Family of Ontario man who died of COVID-19 in U.S. custody are angry with Canadian Embassy – CBC.ca

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The family of an Ontario man who died from COVID-19 while in U.S. custody awaiting deportation to Canada is blaming the Canadian Embassy for not doing enough to bring him home. 

“They did not do their job. They did not protect my uncle, who was a free Canadian citizen,” said Jessica Marostega, the man’s niece.

Her uncle, James Hill, died this week after contracting COVID-19 while at a detention facility run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He was scheduled to fly to Toronto on July 9 after being held at the facility in Farmville, Va., since April. A judge ordered his deportation in May.

But his departure for Canada was delayed due to “medical reasons.” 

“My cousin got an email from the Canadian Embassy saying that his travel had been postponed due to medical reasons, and that’s all they would tell us at that time,” Marostega said. It was later confirmed that he tested positive for COVID-19.

Formerly a practising doctor in Louisiana, Hill had been serving more than 14 years in prison for health-care fraud and distributing a controlled substance before being transferred to the detention centre.

He was 72 and considered at high risk when he was transferred to Farmville. After contracting the coronavirus, Hill was taken to a local hospital, where he died about a month later. Almost every single detainee at the detention facility has contracted COVID-19.  

“It was devastating,” Marostega said. “Fourteen years waiting, we find out he is finally going to be released.” 

James Hill’s family and friends donated items to help him settle back in after returning to Ontario from prison in the U.S. Marostega, his niece, says the family now has to return the items. (Ellen Mauro/CBC)

She said the family was told in April it would take only a few weeks before Hill could come home. But his return was pushed back to the beginning of July.

“It shouldn’t have taken this long,” she said. “We blame the Canadian [Embassy] for that when they could have asked, ‘Why is he not coming home earlier?’ I think [they] should have advocated for that a little more for him. To me, that’s their job.” 

In a statement, Global Affairs Canada offered “sincere condolences to the family,” but it did not respond to the family’s criticism.

“To be honest, all the emails that my family sent that got responses back, they were all very blanket responses — somebody else was looking into it…. And in terms of the embassy, I felt like they just passed a message back and forth but there was no saying to ICE this wasn’t OK,” Marostega said.

“Our family offered to pay for transportation, medical check, everything — and it was all brushed under the table.”

WATCH | Family speaks out after Canadian man dies of COVID-19 is ICE custody:

James Hill died of COVID-19 while in the custody of U.S. immigration enforcement while awaiting deportation to Canada. 2:11

Marostega also reached out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and to her local MP but said the responses were inadequate.

Now, she and her family are left to clean up the room they had set up for her uncle’s arrival and return items that were donated from relatives.

While she knows Hill won’t be coming home, she said she hopes a situation like this won’t happen to someone else. 

“I can’t bring my uncle home, but if I can bring somebody else’s home, right?”

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Kootenay region pitched as winter roost for Canadian snowbirds – CBC.ca

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The Columbia Valley region of British Columbia can’t claim the warm winter temperatures of Palm Springs or Phoenix.

But regional officials are hoping the area’s other charms will be enough to attract Canadian snowbirds whose annual migrations to a warmer climate are on hold because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It’s a great place for Canadians, and hopefully snowbirds to spend two, six, eight weeks or more,” Ryan Watmough, the economic development officer for Columbia Valley, told CBC Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

The plan to promote the region to sun-loving retirees is also envisioned as a strategy to help local businesses survive the pandemic, Watmough said. 

An Invermere, B.C., bakery delivers pastries by bike in April. (Ryan Watmough)

In mid-March, Canadian snowbirds flocked back early from their winter sojourns in the U.S. and other warm destinations as the first wave of COVID-19 spread around the world.

In the latest newsletter from the Canadian Snowbird Association’s official publication, the CSA News, association President Karen Huestis expressed optimism that the annual migration will be back in full swing by fall. 

“It is our belief that our border with the United States will open again to leisure travel toward the end of the summer,” Huestis wrote. 

“For those travelling, the key to staying safe in our winter homes shouldn’t be that different from the protocols which we observe here in Canada: maintaining a two-metre distance from those whom we don’t live with; wearing face coverings; avoiding touching your face, frequent hand washing; and disinfecting high-touch surfaces,” she wrote.

Winter RV camping is among suggestions in a proposal to market the Columbia Valley as a winter destination for Canadian retirees who might not be heading to their usual southern destinations this year. (Ryan Watmough/Regional District of East Kootenay)

Watmough said he doesn’t believe most Canadian retirees will be eager to return to U.S. sun belt destinations any time soon as high levels of COVID-19 infections and deaths continue. 

“They’re not going to likely want to go down to Florida, Arizona, Texas or California this winter. Perhaps not going to be able to,” he said. “So it’s a matter of let’s show them what they can do, and what they can discover in Canada.”

Watmough expects some of the snowbirds who will spend winter in the Columbia Valley are local residents who will opt to stay home this year. In addition  local families who may invite retired parents and grandparents who may fill hotel rooms, longer-term rentals or perhaps bring their RVs for winter camping.

Watmough estimated that if even 500 to 750 of the estimated 300,000 Canadian snowbirds spend a good part of the winter in the Columbia Valley, it would make a major difference in bringing the local economy through the pandemic. 
 

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