Immigrants waiting to come to Canada have been speaking out about the COVID-19 travel restrictions denying them the chance to start their new lives.
Last March, the federal government updated their exemptions to the international travel restrictions, which included “permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on March 18, 2020, but who had not yet travelled to Canada.”
Almost overnight, families and individuals around the world who had been approved for permanent residency (PR) in Canada after March 18, some of whom had been waiting years for their approvals, were no longer allowed to begin their new lives.
Applicants with a valid confirmation of permanent residency (COPR), but without immediate or extended family members in Canada are not included in the list of essential or exempted traveller lists, and for those holding COPRs issued from October 2020 onwards, authorization letters are needed to fly in internationally.
Now, almost a year later, those who hold COPRs approved after March 18, 2020 are facing their visas expiring – COPRs cannot be extended – leaving families desperate.
Many have quit their jobs in anticipation of immigrating after receiving their COPR, sold their properties, taken their children out of school and incurred expenses in preparation for travel – booking hotels, flights and other accommodations.
Others have been lobbying the government; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC); and the media to allow an exemption for those who received their COPR after the cut-off date.
These are some of their stories, in their own words.
(Disclaimer: replies have been edited for length, clarity and brevity)
CHIRAG RATHOD – INDIA
“My wife and I are in great mental depression as we were all set to start our new life after getting the COPR. We had all our bags packed. It did not happen. Now, my wife has started feeling suicidal. I shut down my company thinking that I would be travelling soon and now we have no source of income. We are in such a limbo about restarting our life in India, as we do not know when the Canadian government let us in; it may happen in a month or in a year we have no idea. We are clueless about what will happen to our COPRs after they expire, will it be honoured or will we have to go through the entire PR process again?”
ISAAC BELLO – NIGERIA
“It has not been easy time emotionally and psychologically for me. The security situation around where I reside is deteriorating by the day. A lot of kidnapping for ransom takes place regularly. This tension is exacerbated by the fact that my family (spouse and children) are not accompanying me. I will have to land first, settle in and then apply for family sponsorship for them.
It would be nice and helpful if the government of Canada takes into consideration COPR holders irrespective of whether they have family in Canada or not, since they will have adequate quarantine measures in place. We should be able to land and confirm their permanent residency status since students and temporary workers are allowed in. We should also be exempted from travel restrictions as well since we are coming to stay permanently, unlike students and temporary workers. Many of us are stranded not knowing what our fate will be. Should we keep waiting, hoping that our peculiar situation will be addressed or should we try to pick up our lives where we left off?”
MAMTA SHARMA – INDIA
“I have two teenage daughters and I am a single parent taking care of all their emotional & financial needs.
I had informed their school about the withdrawal of their admissions. Now, in a limbo, I have to plead to the school to admit them back. I worked hard to provide them a better life and good future but currently it seems like a distant dream with lots of uncertainty. I am having sleepless nights and going through tremendous stress and trauma. It is affecting mine and my daughters’ mental health.
I am a valid COPR holder and should be given the right to enter Canada, my new homeland.
Being a single parent is itself a challenge in my community, I had worked hard for the Canadian dream for me and my daughters. We saved each and every penny wherever we could, I am emotionally strained but I have to appear strong in front of my daughters. It’s not only me, there are many people across the world who are facing the same issues. I know COPR visa is a privilege not a right, but understand how hard we have worked to reach for this position. “
FAUZIA KARIM – BANGLADESH
“We are family of three, I am originally from Bangladesh but living in India with my husband and 3-year-old son. We researched day and night about how things work in Canada; starting from transportation, housing, weather, daily life, job search, grocery and day care. Being a Bangladeshi citizen married to Indian man, I am already staying in India on a dependent visa and couldn’t work for the past four years. We invested a good portion of our savings in securing an invitation to apply for PR. My husband served his three months notice period to his employer, sold our car, home appliances and moved to his hometown.
We planned to travel to Calgary on Feb. 21 2021, travelled 800 km from our hometown to Delhi Airport, took a pre-departure COVID test, arranged a proof of funds letter from the bank, booked accommodations etc. We were denied boarding by Air Canada staff stating that our COPR was issued post- March 18 2020, and we aren’t travel exempt, we need to have an authorization letter from IRCC – which is only possible if we have an immediate or extended family member in Canada.
Apart from the financial and emotional stress, there is a lot we are going through. Every now and then are being questioned by family, relatives and several other people “When are you moving to Canada,” and now with no job in hand we are breaking down financially and on the edge of spending money from proof of funds, which was supposed to be for initial months for survival in Canada.”
GURPREET SINGH – INDIA
“When my COPR was approved I was so happy that my dream is going to be true, and I started preparing for the travelling with the hope that soon they will allow us to enter Canada. I resigned from my job, as I needed to serve a three month notice period and booked the tickets and accommodation to complete a 14 day quarantine.
I was not aware that a nightmare was on the way. I am scared because I have resigned from my job, I have my three-year old son who is ready to start school and I am the sole bread earner for my family. I really don’t know how I will fulfill my families basic necessities without a job. As of Feb. 2021, no exemption has been granted to us and our COPR will expire in upcoming months. Now getting into these situations all doors are locked for me, and every night I cry from my heart which has also raised our stress and anxiety. As an immigrant I always wanted to settle in Canada permanently so that my spouse and son would get a good future. Being a skilled worker I feel that hard work pays off in Canada and eventually I will contribute to the Canadian economy.”
KESHAV SHARMA – INDIA
“After getting my COPR, I was very happy and started to prepare to move permanently to Canada. I resigned from my job, as I was speculating that approved COPR holders will be able to land in the country without much hassle. Then we found out about the 14 days quarantine rule, which was sensible to me and I am happy to arrange that as I can understand completely how critical it is to be safe. We later found out about the three day hotel quarantine rule which again I understand the point of view from the Canadian government. I thought because they had issued COPR to us eventually they will allow us to enter Canada. In short, the situation has become so frustrating and heartbreaking that I am kind of starting to feel emotional trauma. I don’t know what is in the future, as there is not a single clarification provided about the agenda of travel restrictions and files processing by IRCC. Life has become miserable for me. I have been postponing my future plans about my family and my career in hope of migrating. Canada is our country now and we must be given a chance to enter our own country.”
Northern Canada may be a popular destination at the end of the world – CTV News
In the event of societal collapse, researchers suggest northern Canada may be “habitable” and could act as a lifeboat, but that other countries are better suited for survival.
The researchers found that Earth is in a “perilous state” due to rapid population growth and an energy consuming society that has altered the Earth’s system and biosphere. They say that societal collapse could happen in various forms, including economic collapse, worsening climate catastrophe, a pandemic worse than COVID-19, or another mass extinction event, which the researchers say is already underway.
The goal of the study, published in the journal Sustainability on July 21, was to create a shortlist of nations that could host survivors in the event of a societal collapse, where civilization could start over. The researchers evaluated the land, how much was available and its quality, how easy or difficult it is to travel to the country, available renewable resources, climate and agriculture, to determine where it would be best to survive the end of the world.
Islands with low population density, particularly those with distinct seasonal changes, fared the best with New Zealand topping the list. Iceland, U.K., Australia (specifically Tasmania) and Ireland made up the rest of the shortlist where it would be best for society to restart after a collapse.
Northern Canada, while not on the shortlist, could act as a “lifeboat” in the event of societal collapse due to climate change and extreme temperatures, but survival would rely on maintaining agriculture and renewable energy sources to keep the population alive.
The researchers showed that the shortlisted countries had strong renewable energy sources, were in temperate climates, and have plenty of agricultural land and space for growth. In the case of Iceland, where suitable land for livestock is not in abundance, this downside is offset by fisheries and the island’s wealth of renewable resources, of which geothermal resources have already been widely developed.
While this may give Canadians living in northern regions a chance to breathe a sigh of relief, there are still zombie fires to contend with as climate change warms the north and shortens winters.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world – CBC.ca
Health authorities in Thailand are racing to set up a large field hospital in a cargo building at one of Bangkok’s airports as the country reports record numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths.
Other field hospitals are already in use in the capital after it ran out of hospital facilities for thousands of infected residents. Workers rushed to finish the 1,800-bed hospital at Don Mueang International Airport, where beds made from cardboard box materials are laid out with mattresses and pillows.
The airport has had little use because almost all domestic flights were cancelled two weeks ago. The field hospital is expected to be ready for patients in two weeks.
The quick spread of the delta variant also led neighbouring Cambodia to seal its border with Thailand on Thursday and order a lockdown and movement restrictions in eight provinces.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 6:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 196 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 4.1 million deaths had been reported.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Tokyo reported 3,865 new cases on Thursday, up from 3,177 on Wednesday and double the number it had a week ago. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katunobu Kato told reporters the new cases are soaring not only in the Tokyo area but also across the country. He said Japan has never experienced an expansion of infections of this magnitude.
The World Health Organization’s Africa director says the continent of 1.3 billion people is entering an “encouraging phase after a bleak June” as supplies of COVID-19 vaccines increase. But Matshidiso Moeti told reporters on Thursday that just 10 per cent of the doses needed to vaccinate 30 per cent of Africa’s population by the end of 2021 have arrived. Some 82 million doses have arrived in Africa so far, while 820 million are needed.
Less than two per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated, and the more infectious delta variant is driving a deadly resurgence of cases.
“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel on vaccine deliveries to Africa but it must not be snuffed out again,” Moeti said.
In the Americas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday that 66.6 per cent of U.S. counties had transmission rates of COVID-19 high enough to warrant indoor masking and should immediately resume the policy.
COVID-19 continues to inflict a devastating toll on the Americas, with Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador and Paraguay among the countries with the world’s highest weekly death rates, the Pan American Health Organization said.
In the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday reported 33,817 new cases of COVID-19 and 303 additional deaths. The country, which has been hit hard by COVID-19, is experiencing yet another surge in cases.
In Europe, Spain’s prime minister said existing measures to protect the most vulnerable from the pandemic’s economic fallout will be prolonged until the end of October.
Spain, one of the countries that was hardest hit at the beginning of the health emergency, has extended subsidies for the unemployed and furloughs for companies that have gone out of business to try to cushion an economic drop of 11 per cent of its gross domestic product in 2020.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET
Washington's reasons for keeping border closed to Canadians still murky a week later – CBC.ca
A week after the U.S. government surprised many by announcing the land border with Canada would remain closed for the time being, the exact reasons for that decision remain shrouded in secrecy.
Not even American members of Congress have been given a detailed explanation for the decision. New York State Rep. Brian Higgins said the lack of information is leading to confusion among his constituents.
“The silence from this administration about the northern border is maddening,” said Higgins, who has been asking for a meeting with officials in the administration of President Joe Biden to get an explanation. “With the border now closed for 16 months and counting, the people deserve to know what it will take to reopen the U.S. border to Canadians.”
Washington State Rep. Suzan DelBene’s office says she “remains frustrated that we haven’t received a clear answer from the administration on why the closure was extended.”
News that the U.S. land border would remain closed until at least Aug. 21 came just after Ottawa announced that fully vaccinated Americans would be able to enter Canada starting Aug. 9.
Many had expected the U.S. to follow Canada’s lead. The U.S. closure order has been less stringent than Canada’s from the beginning; it allowed air travel into the U.S., for example. The COVID-19 case count is lower in Canada than the U.S., and the vaccination rate is higher.
A week after it issued the notice that the U.S. land border would remain closed, the Department of Homeland Security continues to offer the same vague explanation.
“To decrease the spread of COVID-19, including the Delta variant, the United States is extending restrictions on non-essential travel at our land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico through August 21, while ensuring the continued flow of essential trade and travel,” Homeland Security spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández said in a media statement.
“DHS is in constant contact with Canadian and Mexican counterparts to identify the conditions under which restrictions may be eased safely and sustainably.”
Fear of the delta variant
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggesting the decision to maintain border closures and travel restrictions was the result of its guidance.
“I think their decision was made based on the fact that the delta variant is more transmissible and is spreading around the world,” Psaki said, pointing out that it’s also spreading in the U.S. — particularly among unvaccinated Americans.
The CDC has yet to respond to questions from CBC News.
On Tuesday, the CDC stated that even those who are fully vaccinated can spread the COVID-19 delta variant. It now recommends that those fully vaccinated wear masks when they visit indoor public places in areas where there is a high degree of COVID-19 transmission.
One of the few people to offer any hint of what’s gone on behind the scenes is Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“I can tell you that the border situation and letting Canadians in who are fully vaccinated is an area of active discussion right now in the U.S. government,” he told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics on Friday.
WATCH: Dr. Anthony Fauci says status of Canada/U.S. border the focus of “active discussion” in Washington
Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman said the U.S. may not be quite ready to follow Canada’s example by opening the border.
“It may very well have been that the U.S. said, ‘We are not prepared and we have not yet decided on the process and procedures of opening our land borders as of yet,'” Heyman said, adding that Canada would not have announced it’s loosening border measures if the U.S. had been uncomfortable with it.
The U.S. has yet to resolve some key questions about the land border, Heyman said — such as whether it’s going to require proof of vaccination or COVID tests from people entering from the Canadian side.
“If we are, what test and what vaccines will qualify and what won’t?” Heyman asked. “I think that’s still unclear, what process the U.S. will impose.”
Mexico is also a factor, he said.
The two-border problem
“Canada only borders the United States but the U.S. borders (Canada) and Mexico. And when making decisions about its border, it’s highly complicated to say, ‘On one of our borders we’re doing x, and on the other border we’re doing y,'” Heyman said. “If at all possible, you’d like to coordinate your entire border policy in one.”
Mexico’s low vaccination rate compared to Canada, and the aggressive spread of the delta variant in the U.S at a time when only half of eligible Americans are double-vaccinated, may also play into Washington’s decision-making, said Heyman.
Ideally, he said, the U.S. government will make a decision on the border it won’t have to quickly reverse.
“I hope that they make the decision as soon as they possibly can, but I hope they make a decision that is lasting,” he said.
Maryscott Greenwood, Washington-based head of the Canadian-American Business Council, said part of the reason for the border remaining closed could be uncertainty about the vaccination status of those entering the country.
“I think part of the reason could be that the U.S. administration said that they’re not going to validate, verify whether or not someone’s vaccinated before they cross,” she said.
Greenwood’s group speaks regularly with U.S. government officials. She said she hopes the U.S. land border will reopen before Aug. 21 and the country doesn’t apply the same rules to both its northern and southern borders.
“Policy makers and business leaders and communities, not just along the border, are all very frustrated with the decision to stay closed for another month,” said Greenwood, adding some businesses might not survive.
“We’re hoping that the administration will take another look at this next week and find a way forward to reopen the border to fully vaccinated Canadians. I know the White House is paying very careful attention to all of these voices and is trying its best to balance the pressures that it is getting.”
Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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