Mother hoping to be reunited with young son in June, after COVID-19 extends separation
Corner Brook woman now living in P.E.I. hasn’t seen her 8-year-old in five months
Abigail Henriques says she just wants to see her son, hold him close, watch him play — and shout to him to be careful as he rides his trike.
Henriques hasn't been able to do that since Christmas, when she travelled from Prince Edward Island to her hometown of Corner Brook to see eight-year-old Ruben, who has been staying with her parents.
"He's had a hard time and he's been crying and acting out and fighting back — that type of thing," said Henriques, who lives in Belfast, P.E.I.
"I had told him that we're trying but we'd been denied, so 'We are going to have to be patient but Mommy and [Nanny and Poppy] are fighting for you to come home.'"
Henriques works as a practical nurse at Atlantic Baptist Homes in Charlottetown. Her son has been staying in Corner Brook with his grandparents, Rick and Christa van Gelder, until they moved to P.E.I. permanently.
Ruben had been visiting his mom regularly, and was scheduled to be in P.E.I. over Easter. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and entry to the island province was prohibited.
The van Gelders applied to enter P.E.I. on compassionate grounds, but were denied repeatedly by that province.
Their plan, although it was rejected, was to drive there, where they have a trailer outside of their daughter's home where they planned for self-isolate for two weeks with Ruben.
In an emailed statement, a P.E.I. government spokesperson said it's "difficult to provide a black and white answer" on when compassionate requests are approved or declined, but public health concerns are paramount in making those decisions.
It's taken a toll on both of us to be separated this long.- Abigail Henriques
Henriques said the only option the province gave them was for her parents to drop Ruben off at the entrance to the island and travel back to western Newfoundland.
"Ruben being autistic, he needs special care. I can't throw him with a stranger and he's all hunky-dory fine," she said. "That's not going to work."
Not only was Ruben finding this difficult, Henriques said it was also causing considerable stress for her.
"I was devastated as well and trying to hold strong and not cry in front of your son is a very difficult thing to do, and he knows it's bad when he sees his mommy cry," she said.
"We're just very close and it just goes to show parents need their children, children need their parents.… It's taken a toll on both of us to be separated this long."
Last Wednesday, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said the province will begin allowing more than 2,000 seasonal residents from other parts of Canada back to the island. That process begins June 1.
'He's just so excited'
The van Gelders will apply again June 1 and plan to make the journey across the Cabot Strait with Ruben on June 8.
"He's just so excited. He started a calendar, a countdown calendar," she said. "I was just surprised to see him so bouncy.… I haven't seen him that happy in a long time."
Seasonal residents entering P.E.I. must be approved for travel and provide travel documents, proof of property ownership, and a written plan of how they will self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive.
"I always prepare myself for the worst," she said. "Hopefully not, but I'm definitely more confident than I was previously because, surely, you know, [my son and parents] will be able to come home now. I can't see any reason why they would be refused."