2020-11-17 – A Filipino woman in Whistler, British Columbia has passed away after a short battle with cancer. Charie Santiago and her family had successfully lobbied to have her sister, April Untalan and her niece come to Canada after having initially been denied due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions imposed by the Government of Canada.
Santiago died with her sister and family members by her side.
Her sister and niece were given an exemption from the travel restrictions to travel to Canada from the Philippines.
Santiago had struggled with ovarian and uterine cancer. She had hoped to have her sister travel to Canada during the summer, but Untalan was denied because she did not fit the criteria set forth by the Government of Canada.
Santiago and her family sought the support of the community in Whistler to lobby the Government of Canada to allow Untalan and her daughter to be by her side.
Initially, only Santiago’s mother was allowed, but Santiago and her family did not relent, making plea after impassioned plea to Marco Mendicino, minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to allow Untalan and her daughter to come to Canada.
In October, Mendicino announced changes to the list of travellers exempted from the travel restrictions, allowing family members like Untalan to enter Canada for humanitarian and compassionate reasons.
Santiago spoke to CTV News, calling that her sister’s arrival was “a gift”.
2020-10-25 – After initially being denied entry, a Filipino family from Whistler, BC has successfully lobbied the Government of Canada to allow their relative to visit her dying sister to say goodbye.
April Untalan was finally given permission to be at her sister, Charie Santiago‘s side.
Santiago was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live. Due to existing travel restrictions, Untalan was unable to travel to Canada from the Philippines.
Santiago’s mother was allowed to enter Canada, but Untalan and her daughter did not meet the criteria to be exempted from the COVID-19 related travel ban currently in place.
Santiago’s husband started reaching out to local politicians, and with the help of the local community successfully managed to get approval from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
Due to public demand, IRCC expanded its list of individuals who would be exempt from the travel ban, including extended members of the family such as Untalan. The changes came into effect on October 8, 2020.
Untalan took the first available flight a week later, and arrived in Vancouver, BC on October 15, 2020.
Travellers entering Canada are required to quarantine for 14 days, so Untalan had to secure a special exemption to allow her to quarantine with her sister’s family at home.
“I’m feeling OK. I feel good right now. My sister is here,” Santiago told CTV News in an interview.
2020-10-07 – Recent changes to Canada’s travel restrictions have given new hope to a Filipino family from Whistler, British Columbia who are hoping to bring relatives to Canada.
Charie Santiago was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and was told that she only has three to six months left to live.
Her husband, Arthur, has spent the past several months reaching out to local politicians and community groups to support his efforts to bringing family members to Canada to be with her during the remainder of her life.
Santiago’s husband was successful in bringing her mum, but her sister and niece were denied because they were not eligible under the existing COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Last Friday, October 2, 2020, the Government of Canada announced changes to the travel restrictions.
Siblings of Canadian Citizens and permanent residents are now included in the expanded list of eligible travellers exempt from the travel ban.
In a statement, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said that “there will be a robust process in place for extended family members, and each traveller will need to apply for and be issued an authorization before they can travel to Canada.”
“I just want them to be able to spend some good quality time and while Charie’s still coherent and still understands everything that’s going on,” Santiago’s husband told CTV News. “Every day is a gift right now and I don’t want to miss out on this opportunity.”
2020-09-25 – A Filipino family from Whistler, British Columbia are fighting to bring relatives from the Philippines to visit them in Canada amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charie Santiago is terminally ill. She and her husband Arthur Santiago have been appealing to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to allow her sister and niece to visit her before she passes away.
Charie was diagnosed with ovarian and uterine cancer two years ago.
Travel restrictions are currently in place in much of the world, including Canada.
Applications made for other family members, including Charie’s mother, have already been approved.
Charie’s sister and niece were able to visit last year using Temporary Resident Visas (TRVs), but are unable to come to Canada due to existing travel restrictions.
Speaking to Pique News Magazine, Arthur isn’t placing the blame on any one person.
“I don’t blame anybody. It’s because of COVID and I understand that. I’m not opposed to what they’re trying to accomplish to keep us safe,” Arthur told Pique News Magazine. “But, honestly, I don’t even know what to say anymore. I reached out to so many people.”
Arthur shared the IRCC letter that Charie’s sister and niece received dated July 30, 2020 with Pique News Magazine. The letter was a standard denial letter, which said: “Based on our assessment of the information you provided and the information in our system, we have not found that you meet the immediate family member exemption.”
Arthur had appealed to his local Member of Parliament, as well as other government officials including IRCC minister Marco Mendicino.
In an emailed response to Pique News Magazine, IRCC said “We know this has been a difficult time for families and others who are making their way through the immigration system. COVID-19 has had an effect on travel around the world. Ms. DeGuzman Untalan and Ms. Untalan both possess temporary resident visas that were issued in 2019. However, they are unable to travel to Canada at this time as they do not meet any of the exemptions to the current travel restrictions. They are not considered to be immediate family members.
Currently, there are no exemptions from the quarantine requirement or from the travel restrictions for reasons, such as visiting a critically ill loved one.
The government continues to look at ways to reunite families and others who are separated by the temporary COVID-19 measures.”
The Santiagos have received support from the local community, members of whom started a petition in support of bringing Charie’s sister and niece to Canada.
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