Members of Windsor group plead to be reunited with partners and family members in U.S.

·3 min read
It's been a difficult year for Tina Ouellette and her partner James Washington, as they've only been able to communicate by video chat. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)
It's been a difficult year for Tina Ouellette and her partner James Washington, as they've only been able to communicate by video chat. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)

More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the border between Canada and the U.S. shut, couples and families separated by the closure are fighting to be reunited with their family members and loved ones.

"We're asking for them to work with us, to make some sort of exemption for us as well because it's not fair, they're ruining relationships and they're tearing families apart," Tina Ouellette, who founded "Love Without Borders", said.

The Canada—U.S. border was first closed to non-essential travel on March 21 of last year for one month. Those closures have been renewed every month since then.

Ouellette started the group last week and plans to hold rallies each Sunday at border crossings and other places in the area with the hope of convincing policy makers that love is essential too. The group would like to see Canadian officials rescind the 14 day quarantine period for people who are coming to see their loved ones entering the country.

Tina Ouellette and her boyfriend James Washington haven't seen one another since last August.
Tina Ouellette and her boyfriend James Washington haven't seen one another since last August.(Submitted by Tina Ouellette)

"It takes a toll on your mental health," Ouellette said. "It makes you emotional."

Ouellette hasn't seen her boyfriend, James Washington, since last August. She said that instead of a short 45 minute drive to Clinton Township like she took when she opted to visit him last summer, she had to drive to Toronto to fly there and then quarantine for 14 days upon return to Canada. She said she has been experiencing medical issues and not having her partner by her side to support her has made the experience even more difficult.

"I'm going through it alone, I'm facing it alone," Ouellette said.

While it may be possible for Washington to come to Canada, he would be subject to a 14 day quarantine period, and with a child to care for, taking that much time away wouldn't be an option.

"It's been a real struggle to see her go through a lot that she's got going on with herself and me not be there in her time of need," Washington said.

Safe reunifications

Liberal MP for Windsor—Tecumseh Irek Kusmierczyk said that he understands the frustration coming from people who have loved ones on the other side of the border.

He points to 55,000 applications for family reunification that have been processed during the pandemic, but even those come with the requirement to quarantine.

Windsor—Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmiercyzk says that the quarantine period when entering Canada is necessary for health and safety.
Windsor—Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmiercyzk says that the quarantine period when entering Canada is necessary for health and safety. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

"We have to make sure those reunifications happen safely and we're not just talking about the safety of those families being reunited, we're talking about the safety of Canadians and cross border communities like ours," he said.

Brian Masse, NDP MP for Windsor West, said that with a year having passed since the border first closed, there should be a task force put in place to deal with border issues specifically.

"We still don't have a process for families to reunite or visit in isolated ways or ways that are safe and secure," he said.

"We have had processes in place with testing availability and retesting show that with a planned process you can have situations evolve that are different than what we currently have right now."

Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse says the federal government needs a task force to examine border issues.
Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse says the federal government needs a task force to examine border issues.(Dale Molnar/CBC)

Kusmierczyk said that COVID has shown that if you open up the door just a little bit, it will take advantage.

"That's why we're being very strict in terms of adding additional layers of protection at the border," he said.