'So disappointed': Common-law partners are being turned away at the border
TORONTO -- Weeks after the Canada-U.S. border reopened to reunite families, some common-law partners say they're surprised to find themselves still being turned back.
That's what happened to Paulette Yanett. She and Jean Guy Faubert have been living together for a decade, spending summers at Faubert's home in eastern Ontario and winters in Florida, using an RV to get back and forth.
Yanett says she has never had any issues crossing the border, despite being an American citizen, thanks to her common-law relationship with Faubert.
"It's like we're a married couple, but we're not married," she told CTVNews.ca on Monday.
She knew this time would be different. She'd prepared for it, in fact, bringing an assortment of documents that show that she and Faubert own property and vehicles together, including a notarized paper stating that their relationship has been ongoing for 10 years.
What she didn't expect was to be turned away and sent back to the U.S., told she had not provided enough proof of their relationship – and not told what would have been enough.
"They said, 'You have insufficient data to prove that you are common-law,'" Yanett said via telephone from Virginia, as she was making the nearly 2,500-kilometre drive back to Florida.
"I was so disappointed. I was in tears. I cried all the way back to the hotel."
Yanett and Faubert have been apart since late April, when Faubert drove their RV up to Canada. She planned to cross the border and reunite with him, then return to Florida later in the summer, leaving their dog behind to give Faubert company.
The couple had called the border crossing they planned to use – the one that links Ogdensburg, N.Y. with Johnstown, Ont. – and believed from that conversation that the documents they had would allow Yanett to cross.
But that turned out not to be the case. Yanett said she was directed to a separate area to review the paperwork, and was then asked questions about her relationship and tax status. She said she was told that she was not the first person in a common-law relationship to be refused entry at that crossing since the border was reopened for some family reunifications earlier this month.
"They said, 'You're not the only ones that have been turned back [who are] common-law. We've turned a lot of them back,'" she said.
Ogdensburg is not the only border crossing where that is happening. Lorelei Storm told CTV News Calgary last week that she has been unable to see her partner, who lives in Louisiana, since the pandemic began because none of their documentation is considered proof of a common-law relationship.
The Canadian government's definition of a common-law relationship is one in which two people, regardless of sex, have been living together "in a conjugal relationship for at least one year." Having been together for 10, Yanett and Faubert easily meet that requirement.
A spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency told CTVNews.ca in an email that "suggested documentation" for demonstrating common-law status can include paper or electronic copies of common-law status certificates or forms that show "a common residential address."
However, she said, it is ultimately up to the border officer dealing with the person attempting to cross to determine if they should be allowed through, regardless of what documentation is provided.
"The final decision is made by a Canada Border Services Agency officer, based on the information available to them at time of processing," the spokeswoman said.
Yanett said she'll head back north as soon as she is sure that she'll be allowed to enter Canada. She said she wants the government to make it more clear exactly what is needed for those in common-law relationships to cross the border, preventing more of the refusals that she and others have experienced.
"They're not being specific on what requirements [there are]," she said.
"It's disheartening that the prime minister can say he wants to unite families from the U.S. and Canada, but I don't believe it's happening at all."