'She cried all the way into Virginia': Common-law partner turned away at border during pandemic
BROCKVILLE -- Jean-Guy Faubert and Paulette Yannett have been living together for over a decade, wintering in Florida and spending summers at Faubert’s home in Glen Sandfield, Ont., northeast of Alexandria.
Faubert, a Canadian citizen, returned to Canada in April with his RV when the COVID-19 pandemic began to ramp-up. He had no issue crossing into Canada.
"I've been crossing at this border for over 15 years," Faubert said, standing beside his motor home.
However, when Yannett, an American citizen, attempted to cross on June 28 to rejoin her husband, she was denied entry into Canada.
“I was very heartbroken because I haven’t seen Jean-Guy since he went back north (in April),” said Yannett in a phone interview with CTV News Ottawa from her home in Florida.
Yannett said she had never had an issue crossing over into Canada with Faubert, despite being an American citizen, thanks to their common-law relationship.
She understood that this time crossing over to Canada might be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so she prepared, calling the Canada Border Services Agency multiple times to make sure she had the correct paperwork.
She left her home in Florida for the 2.500 kilometre journey armed with documents showing she and Faubert owned property and vehicles together, and carrying a notarized document stating their 10-year relationship.
Once she got to Johnstown, Ont., however, she was denied entry citing insufficient paperwork.
“I said we’ve been together for 10 years and he (the border officer) said ok and I said I have documentation to show that we have vehicles together, insurance together on the vehicles and I have a document that was notarized with the RV when Faubert came back,” said Yannett.
“I was asked to pull aside and two gentleman came out and I told them what I had. They didn’t look at anything. They just said you have insufficient documentation, I can’t allow you to cross.”
“She was crying. She cried all the way into Virginia,” said Faubert.
“We had called the border many times to get the information. They told us bring documents with both our names on it,” he added, showing an armful of paperwork the couple had filled out.
Yannett said that the officers asked about her relationship and tax status, and that other common-law couples had also been denied entry at the same crossing.
The federal government opened the border for cross-border families to reunite earlier in June.
“The border guard said (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) did not give him enough information (about crossing). Now come on,” said a frustrated Faubert.
The definition of a common law relationship according to the Canadian government is one in which two people, regardless of sex, have been living together in a conjugal relationship for at least one year.
Faubert and Yannett have been living together for over 10 years.
A spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency told CTV News Ottawa in an email that "suggested documentation" for common-law status can include a common residential address, but also noted the decision is ultimately up to the border officer dealing with the person attempting to cross.
Yannett believed she had the proper documentation, including the notarized paper.
“They didn't take any documentation from me at all to review it. They just said insufficient documentation,” said Yannett.
"I said that Trudeau said that all you needed was one year common law and we’ve been together for 10 years. I’ve known Jean-Guy for 12 and we’ve lived together for 10. They wouldn’t tell me what else I needed,” added Yannett.
Faubert has reached out to his local MP's office for help, and they say they are looking into the matter.
He also sent a letter to the prime minister asking for clarification.
Yannett said she will try to cross the border again, but only if the government makes it more clear what paperwork is actually needed.
“Unless its a letter from Canada saying that I can cross. I don't know what they would accept,” she said.
“Watch out. Don't believe a word that the border crossing says when you call because they are not giving you the right information. Maybe the officer was in a bad mood? He just turned around a person of 70 years old from Florida who drove all they way up. And our dog is in the car,” said Faubert.
“I think they should have a little bit more compassion and what we used to say....common sense. I’m not pleased with them at all,” he added.
“I hope we can resolve this for us and maybe others that are in the same situation,” said Yannett.
“We just want to be together because we have been doing this for ten years,” she added.
“it’s not worth cutting off families.” said Faubert.
"We’re families and we should be allowed to cross. Make it proper. Don't make it up in the air and especially don't make Mr. Trudeau an excuse that he didn’t give the proper information."