Sarnia’s Andrea Lynch watched anxiously from a distance as her American boyfriend – and father of her unborn baby - pulled up at a Blue Water Bridge border station, hoping this time he'd be allowed entry.
“As I waited, my dad parked beside me to be there in case they turned Brandon away again and I needed to be consoled,” said Lynch, 32.
“Then Brandon started waving at us and I knew it was good news. I don’t know who was more excited, me or my father. We both started jumping around and screaming.
“It was a really profound moment.”
She and Brandon Grey have been trying to reunite in Canada for months, but a border closed to non-essential travel stood in their way.
Their baby boy is due Aug.13.
Lynch and Grey, who lives in Connecticut and owns a gym there, have dated five years and saw one another at least monthly before the pandemic closed the border.
Hoping to be together for an ultrasound appointment to learn the sex of their baby, he attempted to cross at Niagara Falls in May. Canadian border agents refused him twice that day.
In June, the federal government loosened travel restrictions to allow Americans to visit immediate family in Canada. Children, spouses and common-law partners were allowed in.
But not Grey, who has never lived with Lynch. She is remaining in Sarnia to benefit from Canadian health care and family support.
Being without her partner during pregnancy has weighed heavily.
“I became so unbelievably anxious,” she said.
The couple searched every avenue to make a case for why he should be allowed into Canada. They found support in a Facebook group called Advocacy for Family Reunification, participated in Twitter storms with groups like #LoveIsNotTourism, combed Canadian Border Services (CBSA) regulations, and appealed to Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu.
Gladu petitioned the federal government to expand the definition of immediate family and wrote a letter of support that Grey presented to the Blue Water Bridge border agent on July 30.
“I am very fortunate Marilyn Gladu is my MP,” said Lynch.
But the couple believes the document that made the difference was a copy of a Canadian immigration newsletter sent to Lynch by a Facebook friend. Dated May 27, 2020, it and contains an internal Canada Border Services Agency memo offering tips to help staff determine what is essential travel.
The memo states a U.S. resident coming to Canada for the birth of their child can be admitted at the discretion of a border agent, if the hospital can be assured of 14 days isolation prior to the birth.
Grey had compiled a binder of letters of support, a copy of the CBSA memo, and a detailed quarantine plan.
“I pulled up to the (agent’s) window and I told him why I needed to get into Canada, the importance it is to Andrea’s wellbeing and postpartum care,” Grey said.
“He looked at my quarantine plan and I told him I took the month off work to be with Andrea and the baby.
“Then he looked at the memo and I could tell something shifted. It felt like he was on my side. I was overwhelmed and I started crying.
“He asked me what’s wrong, and I told him I was denied before and he said, ‘Don’t worry. It’s OK,’ and I didn’t even have to go to secondary,” said Grey.
“It helped that we had a really compassionate border agent,” said Lynch.
She believes the border should remain closed to non-essential travel, but the definition of immediate family needs to expand.
“There just has to be a little bit of flexibility in reuniting loved ones,” she said.
Lynch and Grey are quarantining at her house until the day before their baby boy is due. Family and friends are dropping off food.
“We don’t need to go out of the house,” she said. “We just want to be together. Finally, I’m getting some sleep before the baby comes.”