In a city wanting immigrants, Saint John councillor fights to bring new wife home

As Saint John rolls out a strategy to grow its population by attracting newcomers, Coun. Sean Casey struggles to bring his new wife to Canada from the Philippines.

Sean Casey expects it will take another year to get necessary approvals

Coun. Sean Casey has been trying to bring his wife, Mika Paz, to Saint John from the Philippines, but her move to Canada hasn't been approved by the federal government. (Sean Casey, submitted)

As Saint John rolls out a strategy to grow its population by attracting newcomers, Coun. Sean Casey fights his own battle to bring home his new wife, Mika Paz, who lives in Manila.

Casey met Paz six years ago in Singapore, and the couple were married in the Philippines in May.

He said they've now spent a year gathering most of the necessary paperwork and he expects they will wait up to a second year for the documents to work their way through the system at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Being apart has been difficult, said Casey, who last saw Paz in November and isn't sure when he will see her next.

Couldn't get tourist visa

An earlier application by Paz to visit on a six-month tourist visa was rejected.

"She wants to come, she's excited to come," he said. "She wants me to try again for the tourist visa, while we're waiting."

This week, city council was presented with a proposed population growth framework to be approved later this month.

Its aim is to attract newcomers, including immigrants and refugees. It also proposes ways to enhance life in Saint John both to keep new arrivals here and to keep young people from leaving.

It's an attempt to reverse a long trend of population decline that saw the city lose 2,488 people over the most recent census period ending in 2016.

After listening to the presentation, Casey spoke out to his fellow councillors and the public.

"My wife in the Philippines would love to come to Saint John," he said. "She has nine brothers and sisters and they would probably like to come here too". 

Speaking to CBC News later, Casey reviewed the list of items the couple have been required to assemble.

Government looks for proof

They include photographs, passport stamps and other documents to prove they know each other.

"A lot of personal questions," he said.

Mounting costs are also a challenge. Each trip to spend time in the Philippines with Paz begins with the outlay of between $1,500 and $2,000 for airfare.

He expects a physical exam, one of the final hurdles for his wife, will cost as much as $3,000, and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada then charges $1,000 to process the paperwork.

The department's website says it can take 12 months to approve an application to sponsor a spouse.