We first met when we were 15 years old. We dated when we were 16 but it didn’t last. Over the course of many years and across many miles we somehow managed to find ourselves living within just 50 miles of each other again.
I’ve been dating Austin, this time, for 13 months. For much of our renewed relationship, the two of us have found a way to spend every other weekend together. That was until March 21. You see, Austin lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and as of March 21, the border is closed to non-essential travel, including restricting family members — parents, children, spouses — who are not Canadian citizens themselves and long-term partners.
On June 8, the Canadian Government revised its closure rules to allow for what it deemed “immediate family members” to cross the border. This exemption allowed for the cross-border transit of a spouse or common-law partner; a dependent child, or a dependent child of the person’s spouse or common-law partner dependent child; a parent or step-parent or the parent or step-parent of the person’s spouse or common-law partner; and a guardian or tutor. The foreign national must isolate themselves for 14 days upon their arrival.
What is not included in the exemption are long-term couples and adult children of Canadian residents.
In the midst of a global pandemic, it is difficult to spend months away from the people you love — it’s been more than four months since I last saw Austin, and we’re not alone.
A Facebook group named Advocacy for Family Reunification at the Canadian Border formed on May 22 — the day after the 30-day border closure was extended for the second time. The group has grown to include more than 3,600 members as of July 20.
A common misconception is that groups such as these are protesting for the border to reopen entirely, but that is not the case. In an effort to encourage the governments to allow for the expanded definition, the group has suggested additional measures on top of the current mandatory 14-day isolation for anyone entering Canada for reasons apart from work. Measures include legal documentation signed by a Canadian party accepting responsibility for the foreign national, proof of international insurance that covers COVID-19 treatment and voluntary COVID-19 testing at the expense of the foreign national.
“We ask the Canadian government this: if NHL and MLB players are considered essential, why not engaged or committed but unmarried partners? Why not adult children of Canadians who may need care?” Dr. David Edward-Ooi Poon, Advocacy for Family Reunification at the Canadian Border’s co-founder said in a press release.“The modification in the border closure to allow for married couples and dependent children to reunite was a positive step, but it has left many of us behind. The reality is that the COVID-19 virus will be with us for many more months, or even years. These temporary border restrictions are becoming less temporary as the months pass, and we are asking for a compassionate exemption to allow us to see each other safely.”
Poon added, “Does having a marriage certificate decrease a person’s risk of COVID-19? Does a hockey stick? We are not asking for open borders. We are just asking to be together.”
The group has created petitions to both the United States and Canada governments to extend the exemption list to include the two aforementioned categories. Every Thursday, group members take the opportunity to do a massive letter-writing campaign to attempt to bring visibility to the ongoing frustrations.
It is important for us during times of turmoil such as the one in which we currently exist to be able to see families and significant others for the wellbeing of our mental health. Love is not tourism; we do not wish to cross the border to do anything other than see our families — both biological and chosen.
Love is essential, especially when everything else seems to be going so wrong in the world.