A Newfoundland woman says help is urgently needed for an Afghan man who saved her life while working with the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan.
Maj. Lisa Compton, who's now retired, helped the man she calls "John" — in order to keep his identity safe — and his family apply for Canadian refuge status in August 2021 when the Taliban retook hold of Afghanistan.
But Compton said the application is stuck in limbo, and now she fears it's a matter of life and death and that John could be killed by the Taliban any day because of his involvement with Canadian troops.
"We had our application in right away. We thought things were going great because he's on the list from the Canadian Forces that recognized that we was part of the group that worked for us and it's been over a year now that I keep getting the same reply," Compton told CBC News on Tuesday.
"It's been almost a year now that we've been marked urgent and nothing has moved. Nothing has changed."
Compton, who now resides in Paradise, completed six deployments as a nurse in Afghanistan beginning in 2007.
She met John about a month into her first deployment, while trying to source clothing for an injured woman who had just given birth at the Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit in Kandahar. She said the man gave her everything she needed from his shop.
"He wouldn't take any compensation for it. That family went on their way and that was how we first met," Compton said.
"From there on I quickly seen how great his English was and how friendly he was and how eager he was to help so he also became a volunteer interpreter at the hospital. When we were overwhelmed, mass casualty situations, he was always available to help out."
Over the course of her next deployments, Compton said she had gotten to know John better.
One morning, a rocket attack targeting the military base sprung John into action.
"A rocket landed that wasn't that far away. If you're thinking about it at home, it was over in the neighbour's yard," said Compton.
"I had on all of my protective equipment and we're hitting the ground, but as we're going to hit the ground he jumped on top of me. I was the one with the protective equipment, not him."
Compton said both were OK after the attack and left immediately for the hospital to help anybody who had sustained injuries.
The pair have been in constant contact since her first deployment in 2007.
Compton said John has a huge target on his back and his family has been on the run since August 2021. The family made it to Pakistan in November, but Taliban in that country are rounding up Afghan refugees to send back to Afghanistan.
Compton said they last spoke on Monday.
"He's not doing well. For anybody that knows him, which many veterans out there know him, he's always the one that's the calm head," said Compton.
"Now it's to the point that when I message him, I don't know if I'm going to get a message back.… I would give everything I've got to know he's safe."
Complex situation, says immigration
To date, more than 27,000 Afghan refugees have arrived in Canada.
The federal Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) told CBC News it cannot comment on individual cases but that Canada remains committed to resettling at least 40,000 vulnerable Afghans by the end of 2023.
Last year, Canada chartered 21 flights from Pakistan in addition to the hundreds of Afghan refugees who traveled on commercial flights.
The IRCC said applications continue to be processed as quickly as possible, adding that the situation is complex with significant challenges chartering flights in some regions.
A spokesperson from the IRCC said the department is aware of reports of arrests of undocumented Afghans in Pakistan.
The IRCC said it's working with Global Affairs Canada to confirm the details of the situation on the ground.