A couple living in Calgary with their two teenaged sons are so grateful for their Canadian experience but they’re worried they won’t be able to stay.
Global News has agreed not to share their full names to protect their safety.
“We have fallen in love with Canada,” Mary said. “It feels like home.”
“We feel more Canadian than French since the beginning,” Emmanuel said.
The couple says their lives are at risk. Mary says she’s been through hell, surviving years of physical and mental abuse in France.
“The trauma I suffered from abusers started when I was young,” Mary said.
“I was looking… to escape the life I had and it took me a long time to walk in the street and not watch over my shoulder every time,” Mary said. “I am at a place trying to heal.”
The family has been living in Canada for nearly a decade.
They arrived on a temporary work permit but there’s a threat it won’t be renewed because, according to immigration rules, one of them needs a skilled job.
“I feel my native country didn’t protect me and now the country of my heart doesn’t want to protect me either,” Mary said.
Despite Emmanuel’s education, nobody will hire him.
“I have a Bachelor degree and have been applying to all kinds of jobs and have manager experience. My wife is a barista at a coffee shop,” Emmanuel said.
“It’s pretty scary because there is no way we can go back to France. If we can’t find a skilled job, we don’t know what to do,” Emmanuel said.
He is pleading with a potential employers to consider the benefits of hiring him.
“Some employers don’t know it’s not that hard to renew a work visa for a Francophone immigrant,” Emmanuel said.
They may have an option due to their situation.
“There is humanitarian and compassionate program but it takes two to three years and probably around $20,000 for us to apply, between lawyer fees and assessments,” Emmanuel said.
He said if he doesn’t find work before the March 15 deadline, they can’t stay and will lose their driver’s licences and social insurance numbers.
Immigration lawyer Evelyn Ackah said the permanent residency application is complex.
“Canadian immigration is getting more and more complicated, it’s why people need to hire professionals. You used to be able to do it yourself but if keeps getting harder,” Ackah said.
Ackah has not worked on Mary and Emmanuel’s case but has some advice.
“They’ve been here for nine years and people can become citizens in that time. I find things were probably missed along the way that has led to them being in this critical situation,” Ackah said.
“If they have been working in a skilled role for 12 months or more, they have another option of the Alberta nominee program where the province can nominate them for permanent residency or they can apply for implied status and they can get an extension of an extra three to four months, if approved,” Ackah said.
In Canada there is “express entry,” but it’s based on a point system and takes into account a number of factors such as age, level of education, work experience and language skills.
“We don’t have enough points to apply to that program,” Emmanuel said.
Even with the uncertainty, the family is hanging on to hope.
“I am a positive person and I am hopeful there is something out there and we will get there,” Mary said. “But, like every human, I have doubts sometimes.”
“Our dream is to one day become Canadian citizen(s) and if we have to go through this, that is what we will do,” Emmanuel said.
They hope to be a voice to other immigrants facing barriers.
“If we could help other immigrants… I am sure we aren’t the only ones in this situation,” Mary said.