SAINT JOHN — It has taken six long years, but Saint John's Wyse Agbaku is finally able to hug and kiss his Ghanian wife and son on Canadian soil.
Agbaku is a Canadian citizen of African origin who has been struggling since 1998 to bring his family to Canada.
Monday night, after a long bureaucratic nightmare, Comfort Agbaku and her son Ametor were welcome to Saint John with an African song.
Wyse Agbaku is relieved his ordeal is finally over. "Lots of times there are people somewhere that maybe have it worse than me, right. But I can't just understand why it took so long though. I have no explanation for it."
Agbaku moved to Canada from Ghana in 1991 and became a Canadian citizen in 1993. Six years ago, he returned to Africa to marry the mother of his child.
When he first requested a visa to bring his family into the country, Canadian Customs and Immigration officials said no, claiming his was a marriage of convenience.
Agbaku appealed the decision, and won in May 2003. He then waited more than a year for Ottawa to respond for his request for documents allowing his family to enter the country.
That's when Saint John Champlain MLA Roly MacIntyre got involved, and lobbied the federal government on Agbaku's behalf.
MacIntyre is critical of the system, and says Agbaku's wife and son should have been granted visas immediately after the court ruled in his favour. "At that point in time, that family should have come to Canada. They won their appeal. There was no good reason."
MacIntyre recruited Saint John Liberal MP Paul Zed, who eventually put enough pressure on the bureaucrats to get the documents approved. Zed is charitable toward the system and says it will change to help families like the Agbakus.
"I think that there are some challenges within the immigration system that are being addressed," Zed says. "I know that when this matter was brought to the attention of the minister, particularly in view of the fact that the federal court had ruled on this matter. It was a bureaucratic hiccup but it got addressed very quickly."
Zed says he's working on a pilot project to make Saint John and New Brunswick the immigration gateway to Atlantic Canada, and is urging Ottawa to "get serious" about attracting more immigrants and helping them stay.
The Agbakus just want to focus on their new life in Canada and their new life as a family, now that their six-year-struggle and their 28-hour flight from Africa is behind them. "I'm very happy that we are here to join my husband," says Comfort Agbaku.