A woman who came to Winnipeg as a Liberian refugee wants to bring her sweetheart of 44 years to Canada, but she says immigration officials don't think the relationship is real.

Martha Cummings-Newray, now a Canadian citizen, says living through a lengthy civil war in their home country meant she did not have the documents to prove the length of her relationship with her current husband, Lindquist Newray.

As a result, the federal government has rejected her application to bring him to Canada.

"Why would I be doing this one thing from 2006 up to now, bringing a man to Canada that I have no intention of being with?" she told CBC News in an interview.

A letter from the Canadian embassy to Newray states, "Based on your interview at our office and a review of the documentation submitted, I am not satisfied that your relationship was not entered into for the purpose of gaining entry to Canada.

"You were advised of the concerns during your interview, but you were unable to satisfy me that they were unfounded. As a result, for the purpose of the regulations, you are not considered to be a member of the family class."

Cummings-Newray said she will appeal the decision and has gathered the necessary documents, including their marriage certificate.

Reunited years later

Cummings-Newray said she and Newray first met in 1970, when they were 12 years old. He was her first love.

"When we turned 18, we decided to live together; we ran away and lived together because my father didn't like him," she said.

"Then he hunted us and found us, and I was married to someone else."

Martha Cummings-Newray

Martha Cummings-Newray of Winnipeg is appealing the federal government's decision not to allow her husband, Lindquist Newray, to come to Canada. (CBC)

When war broke out in Liberia, Cummings-Newray and her husband at the time fled to a refugee camp, where they stayed until he left her in 1998.

The country was embroiled in civil conflict through much of the 1990s and early 2000s, with the war ending in 2003.

Fast-forward to 2006, about a year after Cummings-Newray moved to Canada as a refugee. She said one day, she got a surprise phone call from Newray.

"I was sure that he did not survive," she said.

"He said, 'Each time they tried to kill me, I would pray that they won't kill me before we get the chance to be together at least.'"

They married at a refugee camp in Ghana in 2008.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada would not comment on Cummings-Newray's case, but a spokesperson told CBC News that officers are trained to assess relationships based on a number of factors.

David Matas, an immigration lawyer in Winnipeg, says the government does not put much weight in the sponsor's judgment in many cases.

"The Canadian spouse doesn't want to be used, doesn't want to be tricked, and has made a decision based on a lot more knowledge than Canada Immigration has," he said.