Canadian woman wants travel ban on West African countries lifted

WATCH ABOVE: A New Brunswick woman says Canada must revisit its travel restrictions on visitors from western Africa after her and her partner from Sierra Leone were denied entry into Canada. Global’s Alex Abdelwahab reports.

MONCTON – A Canadian woman, originally from New Brunswick, is upset her partner was not able to join her and their daughter this summer in Canada.

Rachael Borlase, who now lives in the UK, said her partner, Amara Bangura, was told his visitor visa to Canada would not be processed because he had recently been to Sierra Leone.

Borlase, who is visiting her parents in Pointe-du-Chene, NB, said the plan had been for Bangura to join them Thursday evening for her brother’s “typically East Coast” wedding this weekend.

READ MORE: An estimated 176 people turned away from Canada after Ebola-related travel ban

“We’re going on a lobster boat, and then out for dinner,” Borlase said. “Then having a massive, about 100-person, pig roast tomorrow, as part of the whole wedding weekend.”

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Borlase and Bangura live together with their daughter, six-month-old Ruby Borlase Bangura, in Norwich, England, where Bangura is completing his Master’s at the University of East Anglia.

But Bangura has a Sierra Leone passport, which means he requires a visa to visit Canada.

After submitting his application for a three-week travel visa, he received a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada that said his “application [was] not eligible for processing and will not be processed,” because he had been to Sierra Leone for two weeks in May.

“It’s a real kick to the gut, if I’m honest,” Borlase said.

“I mean it’s always going to be a struggle for African passport holders to get in and out of Canada if they don’t have permanent status here, but we just could never have imagined that he would be denied this visitor’s visa.”

Borlase said her partner had been to Canada several times and they had lived together in Toronto when he studied at the University of Toronto.

She said she especially didn’t understand CIC’s decision given that Bangura had included a medical certificate from Public Health England that declared him Ebola-free.

The certificate, signed by a doctor in Norwich, states, “There is no known exposure to the Ebola Virus, so there is no reason to restrict activities. There is no public health reason to prevent a return to normal duties.”

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READ MORE: 10 US clinicians to be evacuated from Sierra Leone after colleague contracts Ebola

In October 2014, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration issued Ministerial Instructions that “CIC will not process new visa applications … for temporary residence in the worker, student or visitor class of foreign nationals who have been in an Ebola affected country (which includes having resided, travelled or transited), within three months prior to the date the application is received by CIC.”

At the time, the World Health Organization and international health law experts had criticized the visa ban, saying it violated the International Health Regulations that Canada helped draft in the aftermath of the Toronto SARS epidemic.

Bangura travelled to Sierra Leone in May as part of his thesis work, which is focusing on how local media can react to international health challenges like Ebola. As part of his trip, he was training local journalists on how they can better report the facts of Ebola and keep their community safe.

He told Global News that he found the Canadian government’s decision ironic.

“I was sad, I was really, really sad,” he said.

“But at some point I thought, well this is really interesting. I was there educating people about what Ebola is and what they should do to escape it and here is a country isolating me for thinking that I don’t know about Ebola.”

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He added that he found the three-month time period imposed by the government arbitrary and excessive, given the known incubation period for Ebola is 21 days.

According to the most recent WHO situation report, as of July 29, there were three reported cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone.

Borlase and her family believe it’s time Canada lift the ban, saying it’s too late for Bangura to attend the wedding, but they hope their story can help other people.

READ MORE: Canadian-made Ebola vaccine proves 100% effective in clinical trial

In an e-mail to Global News, Citizen and Immigration Canada said it couldn’t comment on specific cases, but said it maintained a regular dialogue with the WHO on the state of the outbreak.

“Although the World Health Organization indicates a welcome decline in case incidences, the WHO has also noted that it is too early to tell whether it will be sustained,” the e-mail said.

“Once the WHO no longer identifies a country as having widespread and persistent/intense transmission of the Ebola virus, as in the case of Liberia, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has, in the past, resumed processing temporary resident and permanent resident applications.” 

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