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He's from Rwanda, she's from Canada. This married couple has never spent a Christmas together — until now –



Emily Knope never once questioned if it was worth it.

Despite being more than 11,000 kilometres away from the love of her life, having to communicate over a crackly phone connection and repeated failed attempts to bring him to Canada, she knew almost from the start that they had to be together.

Ben Tuyisenge never doubted it either. Within three dates, he says he knew the two had something special.

“We didn’t know at the time that we were going to get married and end up together. But we had to try,” Knope said.

The question was: How?

Knope, 25, is from Toronto; Tuyisenge, 31, is from Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. The pair met in 2015 while Knope was travelling in East Africa during a semester off from university. And within the span of just a few weeks they knew they were falling in love.

Tuyisenge and Knope met in Rwanda in 2015. They knew almost instantly that they had to be together. (Submitted by Emily Knope)

“It seemed crazy because we were from two different countries and what felt like two different worlds,” Knope said. But as she prepared to head back home, she and Tuyisenge decided they were going to try to make it work long distance, across oceans.

‘We knew there was something serious there’

Over the next several months, the couple kept in touch by phone, email, text and Facetime — anything to make the distance feel shorter.

“It was hard, but because we knew there was something serious there, we kept trying,” Tuyisenge said. “We were prepared mentally for that. We always knew that anything that comes and challenges our relationship builds it and gives us more reasons to be together.”

Knope was in university at the time and each time she’d get a break, she would fly to Rwanda — sometimes for months at a time. The flight alone averages $1,300. 

It’s a horrible feeling when you’ve been through something as traumatic as the genocide.– Emily Knope

But when it came to Tuyisenge coming to Canada, that wasn’t an option, the couple learned. The first time they tried to apply for a visitor’s visa around Christmas 2016, they were denied.

Among the reasons: Tuyisenge’s lack of family ties in his home country.

There’s a reason for that, Tuyisenge says. He lost his mother and much of his family during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. His father survived but died soon after. In the months afterward, Tuyinsenge, still a child, made it to a refugee camp near Congo, where he became separated from his younger brother. His older brother, the eldest of the three, eventually settled in the United States. 

But for Tuyisenge, the people he called family in Rwanda were mostly his closest friends — something the Canadian government considered a red flag.

“It’s a horrible feeling when you’ve been through something as traumatic as the genocide … losing your parents, losing connection with your brothers, losing aunts and uncles and then almost having to defend it, saying, ‘No, but I am a good person and you should accept me,'” said Knope.

“It made me feel like I was worthless,” Tusiyenge recalled.

Married but denied again

The next Christmas, the pair tried for a visitor’s visa again. By then they were engaged to be married. 

But once again Tuyisenge was denied. 

The following spring, Knope returned to Rwanda — this time with her family in tow. She and Tuyisenge were married there on May 18, 2018. Surely now he could move to Canada so that they could build a life together.

Knope and Tuyisenge were married in Rwanda on May 18, 2018. The hoped he could come to Canada so they could build a life together. (Hervé Irankunda)

At least that’s what they thought.

Then came the crushing news: Tusiyenge was denied a third time. 

“That was really heartbreaking,” he said, recalling the experience. “I’m not allowed to travel because I don’t have my family members…. It was like being an orphan became another problem.”

Each rejection became a reminder of his childhood trauma, feeding a fear that his future would forever be dictated by it. 

“You blame yourself,” Tuyisenge said. “When you go through that, there’s always those moments where you think: ‘Maybe I’m not worth living. Why am I still around? Maybe I should have gone with my family.’ Because everyone is treating you differently.”

Knope and Tuyisenge pictured on their honeymoon in Arusha, Tanzania. The pair would have to wait another year and a half before they could be together in Canada. (Submitted by Emily Knope)

In January 2019, the pair decided to try again, this time applying for Tuyisenge to become a permanent resident. 

It took weeks to get their documentation ready, collecting personal emails and taking screenshots of their Facetime conversations, all to make the case to the Canadian government to allow Tuyisenge to join his wife Knope.

A cruel twist 

Then, in a cruel twist, their paperwork was lost.

That meant restarting the process — and months more apart as they waited.

Finally, on a September morning, an email that would change their lives.

Tusiyenge was at work at a non-profit organization in Kigali when an email came from the Canadian government saying he would have to undergo a medical check.

In November, the news they had been waiting for: Tuyisenge had finally been accepted to come to Canada. 

On Dec. 21, just days before Christmas, Tuyisenge arrived at Toronto’s Pearson airport after a 21-hour trip, exhausted and nervous — but more than anything, elated. 

Emily Knope and Ben Tuyisenge have spent the holidays apart for the last three years. He was approved to come Canada, just in time for Christmas. 1:19

Knope and her entire family were there waiting, cheering as he walked through the arrivals gate and into her arms.

Overcome with emotion, Tuyisenge says one thought occurred to him in that moment:

“This looks like family, this is what family does… Seeing how happy everyone was, welcoming me, it made me feel like even though my family passed away, I still have another family,” he said. 

‘I felt like I was coming home’

“Some of them you’ve never met but when you see their faces, how happy they are, hugging you, it’s another level of humanity.

“I felt like I was coming home … even though it was my first time being there.”

Through it all, Knope says, the pair have learned about patience, love and what matters most.

“To me, he has always been worth it.… We got through it together and it really did make us stronger.”

For Christmas, the pair say they haven’t planned much. On the agenda: taking it slow, spending as much time as possible with family.

Tuyisenge is also slowly adjusting to the cold and getting acquainted with life in a brand new city. 

“Putting on all those layers, I feel like I’m heavy, almost like I’m congested?” he says with a laugh.

“I’m like a kid, looking around…. Everything is different.”

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U.S. FAA seeks new minimum rest periods for flight attendants between shifts



The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing to require flight attendants receive at least 10 hours of rest time between shifts after Congress had directed the action in 2018, according to a document released on Thursday.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing major carriers including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and others, had previously estimated the rule would cost its members $786 million over 10 years for the 66% of U.S. flight attendants its members employ, resulting from things like unpaid idle time away from home and schedule disruptions.

Aviation unions told the FAA the majority of U.S. flight attendants typically do receive 10 hours of rest from airlines but urged the rule’s quick adoption for safety and security reasons.

Under existing rules, flight attendants get at least 9 hours of rest time but it can be as little as 8 hours in certain circumstances.

“Flight attendants serve hundreds of millions of passengers on close to 10 million flights annually in the United States,” the FAA said, adding that they “perform safety and security functions while on duty in addition to serving customers.”

It cited reports about the “potential for fatigue to be associated with poor performance of safety and security related tasks,” including in 2017, when a flight attendant reported almost causing the gate agent to deploy an emergency exit slide, which was attributed to fatigue and other issues.

The FAA estimated the regulation could prompt the industry to hire another 1,042 flight attendants and cost $118 million annually. If hiring assumptions were cut in half, it said, that would cut estimated costs by over 30%.

After the FAA published an advance notice of the planned rules in 2019, Delta announce it would mandate the 10-hour rest requirement by February 2020.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson is testifying at a U.S. House Transportation subcommittee hearing on Thursday.

House Transportation Committee chairman Peter DeFazio said on Wednesday that it was “unacceptable” to delay the FAA adopting the flight attendant rest rule and mandating secondary flight deck barriers to better protect the cockpits on all newly manufactured airliners.

Attorneys at the FAA “need a little poke” to move faster on rules when ordered by Congress, DeFazio said on Thursday at the hearing. “Do not screw around with it for three years… you just do it.”

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants representing 50,000 workers at 17 airlines, said the rule was critical.

“Flight attendant fatigue is real. COVID has only exacerbated the safety gap with long duty days, short night, and combative conditions on planes,” she said. “Congress mandated 10 hours irreducible rest in October 2018, but the prior administration put the rule on a process to kill it.”

During the pandemic, flight attendants have dealt with records numbers of disruptive, occasionally violent passenger incidents, with the FAA citing 4,837 unruly passenger reports, including 3,511 for refusing to wear a mask since Jan. 1.

The FAA proposes to make the new flight attendant rest rules final 30 days after it publishes its final rules.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jason Neely and Bill Berkrot)

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Canada government, provinces agree COVID-19 vaccine travel passport – officials



Canada’s federal government and the 10 provinces have agreed on a standard COVID-19 electronic vaccination passport allowing domestic and foreign travel, government officials told reporters on Thursday.

The deal prevents possible confusion that could be caused if each of the provinces – which have primary responsibility for health care – issued their own unique certificates. The officials spoke on the condition they not be identified.

The document will have a federal Canadian identifying mark and meets major international smart health card standards.

“Many (countries) have said they want to see a digital … verifiable proof of vaccination, which is what we’re delivering,” said one official.

In addition, federal officials are talking to nations that are popular with Canadian travelers to brief them about the document.

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier this month that from Oct 30, people wishing to travel domestically by plane, train or ship would have to show proof of full vaccination.


(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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U.S. safety board says driver, passenger seats occupied during fatal Tesla crash



National Transportation Safety Board(NTSB) said on Thursday that both the driver and passenger seats were occupied during an April 17 fatal crash of a Tesla Model S in Spring, Texas.

Local police previously said witness statements indicated there was nobody in the driver’s seat of the Model S when it crashed into a tree. The NTSB said a review of vehicle data show “both the driver and the passenger seats were occupied, and that the seat belts were buckled when the (event data recorder) recorded the crash.”


(Reporting by David Shepardson)

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