Sackville mother questions long delay in getting her Lebanese husband into Canada

Rachelle Farah and sons Elias, 3 and Moussa, 7 months

A Sackville mother of two young boys says she’s frustrated and angry that she’s been waiting nearly four years to bring her husband to Canada from Lebanon.

“I’m really upset,” says Rachelle Farah.”I need him to be with me especially with two kids,” she adds. “He hasn’t even seen his youngest one.”

Farah, 31, says she applied on October 12, 2017 as a Canadian citizen to sponsor her 30-year-old husband Johny Saoud for permanent resident status, a process that usually takes about 12 months.

“This delay is way outside the normal range,” Farah says. “It normally takes one year, plus or minus a couple of months.”

She acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed things down, but points out her application was submitted more than two years before the pandemic was declared in March 2020.

Farah says that after her application was accepted, her husband underwent medical tests in January 2018. Canadian officials also requested a security check and she says Johny was interviewed twice by phone in Lebanon, but there’s been no word on why his permanent resident status hasn’t been granted.

She says she took her case to her local Member of Parliament, Dominic LeBlanc three years ago, but his staff apparently haven’t been able to tell her why there’s been such a long delay. (LeBlanc’s office did not respond to a request for information from The New Wark Times.)

“I just wish they (Canadian immigration officials) would tell us what the problem is,” Farah says, adding that her husband works for the Internal Security Forces, Lebanon’s national police and security agency.

Nicole Druckman, the Moncton immigration lawyer who helped Farah file her sponsorship application, notes that Johny Saoud is a police officer in Lebanon and she suggests Canadian security checks may be responsible for the delay.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Druckman says. “Keeping people apart like this is really painful for them.”

Family history

Rachelle, Johny and Elias together during a visit to Lebanon. Johny has never met baby Moussa (inset). Composite photo courtesy Rachelle Farah

Rachelle Farah emigrated from Lebanon to Sackville on December 14, 2010 where her father Moussa had already established the auto body shop he still runs on Stephens Drive, north of the TransCanada highway.

She and Johny Saoud had grown up in Cheikh-Taba, a town in northern Lebanon and they kept in touch after she came to Canada.

The couple got engaged in 2015 and were married in Lebanon on June 26, 2016.

Farah conceived their two children during visits to Lebanon. Elias was born in 2018 and Moussa in 2021.

“I’m having my kids like a single Mom, but I’m not,” Farah says. “I’m married, right, so I have a husband, but he’s in Lebanon.”

She adds that the separation is especially hard on Elias who, at age three, has started questioning why he can’t see his father.

“It’s getting him upset because sometimes I figure out that even at night, he wakes up and he wants to talk with his father,” she says.

“Even on his iPad, I put FaceTime and he knows his father’s name starts with “J” and he calls him sometimes at night and I find him talking with him.”

Health problems

Farah herself is on prescription medications for health problems that sometimes require hospital treatment in Amherst.

“I have bad health issues now,” she explains and adds that her husband’s absence has made things worse.

“Getting the babies without him or being in the hospital doing some treatments without him or without support, staying on the phone all the day, it’s really stressful,” she says.

“If he were here, we would have our own house,” she adds.

As a trained beauty specialist, she says her dream is to open her own spa, while Johny could help her father with his auto body work.

Farah says that while she’s grateful for the government maternity and child support benefits she receives, she and her husband want to work.

“If he could be here, he can work more, we can get more money [and] I’m not just sitting here waiting for the government to pay me. We like to work.”

Chaos in Lebanon

Farah says she can’t return to Lebanon to visit Johny because the country is going through a crisis sparked by sectarian violence and the effects of a collapsing economy that include severe food and fuel shortages.

“I won’t take my kids there in this situation,” she says.

At the same time, she worries about her husband’s safety.

She says that Johny, who lives in their house in Beirut, happened to be in a truck under a bridge on August 4, 2020 when one of the largest, non-nuclear explosions in history shattered the port and much of the city killing 218 and wounding 7,000 more.

Farah says Johny suffered from concussion, but escaped serious injury.

“Thank God he’s still alive, other people suffered more, but for us, it was very bad.”

IRCC response

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC),  the federal department that oversees immigrants and refugees, says that for privacy reasons it can’t comment specifically on Rachelle Farah’s sponsorship application without written consent.

In an e-mail to Warktimes, IRCC says it has taken a number of steps to speed up the processing of applications.

We expanded our office in Sydney, Nova Scotia by 62 new staff to help reunite families faster. These will help us return to the one year processing standard for spousal sponsorship. We’ve improved technology and digitized more of our operations, and increased the amount of processing happening virtually. This includes our permanent resident landings process, which has now actually reduced the amount of time it takes to land a permanent resident compared to the pre-pandemic process.

While processing times for spousal sponsorship are approximately one year, COVID-19 has required us to make changes in our processing that have meant we can’t give accurate processing times for most applications at this time.

To read the entire IRCC e-mail, click here.

Message to LeBlanc & Trudeau

Rachelle Farah says she has been hoping to meet Dominic LeBlanc personally to discuss her application, but so far, hasn’t been able to arrange such a meeting.

When asked what message she would give to LeBlanc or to his close friend Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, she said:

“I want my husband with me here. That’s it. That’s it. I want him in Canada as soon as possible.”

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