By Nicholas KeungImmigration Reporter
Wed., April 7, 2021timer5 min. read
Richard Pogue was the type of worker Manitoba was looking for.
The province recommended him for immigration to Canada to help fill its shortage of long-haul truck drivers.
Things started well enough. Weeks after he arrived from the United Kingdom on a work permit in April 2017, Pogue bought a “dream home” in Gladstone, a small town with a population of just 1,000 people, about two hours’ drive west of Winnipeg.
“It’s an English cottage-style house. It had a massive garden. There’s a river at the back of the house. It’s picture perfect,” said his wife, Joanne Armitage-Pogue, who runs a small publishing company from home.
That home on Hyde Park Crescent is a stark contrast to the rundown apartment their family of five is staying in right now, however, as they await news of their permanent residence application, which has been in the system for almost four years.
What had already been an anxiety-inducing wait took a dramatic turn last month.
In late March, the couple applied to extend their work permits and their two older kids’ study permits. To their surprise, they were all refused, meaning they must leave Canada by May 11, along with their three-year-old Canadian-born son, Reuben. They say they aren’t sure why.
“We’re settled here. The kids are settled here. Our youngest was born here. How long do we have to do this? We want stability for our family, for our kids,” said Pogue, who had already decided to sell their beloved house last year in the face of uncertainty over their status.
Under the provincial nominee programs, including Manitoba’s, skilled immigrants are recruited, pre-screened and invited to apply for permanent residence based on their skills and qualifications in demand in individual provinces.
The federal immigration department is then charged with administering and deciding on the applications.
It’s supposed to be a routine process. It takes an average of 21 months. The Pogue family is now in Month 46 of their wait.
According to immigration officials, the family’s permanent residence application was received in June 2017 and the couple were given instructions to submit to criminal and medical checks in February 2018. Criminal court documents were received three months later, other requested information followed.
Their application was forwarded to a local immigration office in Winnipeg in June 2019 and is currently in the queue for processing on a first-come, first-served basis.
“We realize that this application is taking longer than usual, but each case is different and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is working to finalize this application as soon as possible,” immigration department spokesperson Isabelle Dubois told the Star in an email.
“As you know, global migration has been upended by the pandemic. From widespread travel restrictions to constraints on our settlement partners to employees working remotely, it has had a significant impact on Canada’s immigration system and affected processing times.”
The Pogues said they started looking for another country to raise their children in 2015 and immediately fell in love with what rural Gladstone had to offer.
“We loved the space and the weather in Manitoba. We loved the housing, the lifestyle here. Truck drivers were in high demand and we could get in easily,” said Pogue, who wanted a change for his family from their native Leeds.
After spending a few weeks living out of a mobile home, the family found their dream home and started preparing for their permanent residence application.
“Our kids can walk to school, ride their bikes and play outside without adult supervision. We’ve made a lot of friends. I have joined a book club and all the school trips with my kids,” said Armitage-Pogue. “We are active and well-integrated in the community. We’ve done everything to settle.”
But as the wait for their permanent residence prolongs, they worry whether Canada is going to let them stay. Fearful they might have to pack up and leave on short notice, they sold their house last year.
“We loved our perfect house, but it’s got to the point we’re terrified we’re going to be turned down by immigration and thrown out of the country,” said Armitage-Pogue.
“They still won’t tell us when we will get a decision from them. We are living on a knife edge, unable to make plans or do anything,”
So far, she, her husband and their two older children, Alexander, 12, and Anasazi, 10, have all undergone the required medical exam at least twice because they have to be redone if they expire before a decision is rendered. Both the medical tests and their work permit applications have already cost them a fortune, they said.
Armitage-Pogue said when they originally applied for permanent residence in 2017, the immigration department website said the application should be completed by December 2018.
“The last time anyone did anything on our application was summer 2019 and yet they are blaming COVID for being slow,” she lamented.
One possible cause for delay, she believes, is related to her eldest two children having a different father. But she said she had provided all the British court documents in their immigration application at the onset.
Another possibility is that her husband was thrown in a cell by police for being drunk in public 16 years ago, but Armitage-Pogue said he was not charged and was let go the next morning. That was also made clear by a lawyer they hired to provide the relevant documents in their immigration application.
An immigration department source did confirm that the family’s permanent application was pulled out from the regular processing queue in relations to that.
“We just want to live our lives. We’ve done nothing wrong. In fact, we’ve done everything we can to make a life here, but our mental health is suffering,” she said.
“We gave up everything in the U.K. to come here. We sold our house, our belongings, everything and we have nothing to go back to. We really want to stay here where we’ve set down roots.”
Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung