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 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.
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.
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.”
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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CEO of Canada's top pension fund resigns after getting Covid-19 shot abroad – POLITICO
OTTAWA — The head of Canada’s biggest public pension fund abruptly resigned from his post shortly after news broke that he avoided the country’s sluggish vaccine rollout by traveling to the United Arab Emirates to get a Covid-19 shot.
“Recently, our CEO Mark Machin decided to travel personally to the United Arab Emirates where he arranged to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board said in a statement Friday. “After discussions last evening with the Board, Mr. Machin tendered his resignation and it has been accepted.”
Machin has been president and CEO of CPPIB since June 2016. The overseas journey earlier this month enabled him to jump Canada’s months-long vaccination waiting list through the country’s public health system.
The story was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The CPPIB, which manages the assets of 20 million Canadian contributors and beneficiaries, had C$475.7 billion in investments around the world at the end of 2020.
Government reaction: Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland supported the “swift action” taken by CPPIB’s board of directors, one of her spokespeople wrote in an email Friday.
“While the CPPIB is an independent organization, we are very disappointed by this troubling situation,” Katherine Cuplinskas wrote in an email to POLITICO. “The Deputy Prime Minister spoke to the Chair of the Board of Directors today and made clear that Canadians place their trust in the CPPIB and expect it to be held to a higher standard. The federal government reiterates that now is not the time to travel abroad.”
What the story tells us: The public backlash over Machin offers a glimpse of how Canadians view those in positions of power and privilege who skip the public queue.
Machin’s trip, which allowed him to bypass millions of Canadians waiting for a Covid-19 shot, also came with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government under intense pressure for a vaccine rollout that’s been far slower than peer countries, including the United States.
What’s next: CPPIB said, effective immediately, that John Graham has been appointed as the new CEO. Graham had been serving as CPPIB’s senior managing director and global head of credit investments.
The pension fund manager said Graham has been instrumental in helping to shape and execute its strategy over the last decade as a member of the senior management team.
“Leadership is, therefore, fundamental to meeting our objectives on behalf of Canadians and we take that responsibility of leadership very seriously,” the CPPIB said.
Johnson & Johnson's single-shot COVID-19 vaccine endorsed by U.S. advisers – CBC.ca
U.S. health advisers endorsed a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Friday, putting the nation on the cusp of adding an easier-to-use option to fight the pandemic.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to quickly follow the recommendation and make J&J’s shot the third vaccine authorized for emergency use in the U.S. Vaccinations are picking up speed, but new supplies are urgently needed to stay ahead of a mutating virus that has killed more than 500,000 people in the country.
After daylong discussions, the FDA panellists voted unanimously that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks for adults. If the FDA agrees, shipments of a few million doses could begin as early as Monday.
“There’s an urgency to get this done,” said Dr. Jay Portnoy of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. “We’re in a race between the virus mutating and new variants coming out that can cause further disease and stopping it.”
Health Canada is still reviewing the vaccine. Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson with options for up to 28 million more, if necessary. Most of those shots are expected to arrive by the end of September.
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More than 47 million people in the U.S., or 14 per cent of the population, have received at least one shot of the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which FDA authorized in December. But the pace of vaccinations has been strained by limited supplies and delays due to winter storms.
While early J&J supplies will be small, the company has said it can deliver 20 million doses by the end of March and a total of 100 million by the end of June.
J&J’s vaccine protects against the worst effects of COVID-19 after one shot, and it can be stored up to three months at refrigerator temperatures, making it easier to handle than the previous vaccines, which must be frozen.
Strong protection against worst outcomes
One challenge in rolling out the new vaccine will be explaining how protective the J&J shot is after the astounding success of the first U.S. vaccines.
“It’s important that people do not think that one vaccine is better than another,” said panellist Dr. Cody Meissner of Tufts University.
The two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were found to be about 95 per cent effective against symptomatic COVID-19. The numbers from J&J’s study are not that high, but it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. One dose of the J&J vaccine was 85 per cent protective against the most severe COVID-19. After adding in moderate cases, the total effectiveness dropped to about 66 per cent.
Some experts fear that lower number could feed public perceptions that J&J’s shot is a “second-tier vaccine.” But the difference in protection reflects when and where J&J conducted its studies.
J&J’s vaccine was tested in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa at a time when more contagious mutated versions of the virus were spreading. That wasn’t the case last fall, when Pfizer and Moderna were wrapping up testing, and it’s not clear if their numbers would hold against the most worrisome of those variants.
Importantly, the FDA reported this week that, just like its predecessors, the J&J shot offers strong protection against the worst outcomes, hospitalization and death.
While J&J is seeking FDA authorization for its single-dose version, the company is also studying whether a second dose boosts protection.
Panel member Dr. Paul Offit warned that launching a two-dose version of the vaccine down the road might cause problems.
“You can see where that would be confusing to people thinking, ‘Maybe I didn’t get what I needed,”‘ said Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It’s a messaging challenge.”
New cases increasing
J&J representatives said they chose to begin with the single shot because the World Health Organization and other experts agreed it would be a faster, more effective tool in an emergency.
Cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically since their January peak that followed the winter holidays. But public health officials warned that those gains may be stalling as more variants take root in the U.S.
“We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said, speaking at the White House on Friday. She noted that new COVID-19 cases have increased over the past few days.
While it’s too early to tell if the trend will last, Walensky said adding a third vaccine “will help protect more people faster.” More vaccines are in the pipeline.
On Sunday, a CDC panel is expected to meet to recommend how to best prioritize use of the J&J vaccine.
Other parts of the world already are facing which-is-best challenges. Italy’s main teachers’ union recently protested when the government decided to reserve Pfizer and Moderna shots for the elderly and designate AstraZeneca’s vaccine for younger, at-risk workers. AstraZeneca’s vaccine was deemed to be about 70 per cent effective in testing.
Canada became the latest country Friday to allow use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
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