Ottawa woman reunited with mother after 13-year immigration ordeal

An Ottawa woman originally from Congo has finally succeeded in bringing her mother to Canada 13 years after first filing a sponsorship application.

Immigration officials intervened after CBC News reported on Marie-Flore Kapamba's plight

Alphonsine Mbuyi, left, and her daughter Marie-Flore Kapamba are reunited at Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport on Jan. 25, 2017. (Radio-Canada)

Marie-Flore Kapamba and her mother Alphonsine Mbuyi were finally reunited in a flurry of tears, hugs and cries of joy at Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport Wednesday, marking the end of a 13-year bureaucratic nightmare for both women.

The women occasionally touched each other's faces, as if making sure they were really together again.

It had been a long wait for Kapamba, who lives in Ottawa but is originally from Congo.

"Finally, she is here in good health. Finally, she's here, alive!" Kapamba said in French.

"I was desperate. I couldn't even believe it," she said, with her arm around her mother. "It's like I'm still in a dream. It took such a long time. It was the biggest test of my life. I still can't comprehend it. But I'm so grateful."

Mbuyi hugged her three grandchildren, triplets who are now teenagers.

"I am happy. I am happy," the 70-year-old said in French. "I'm with my child and my grandchildren."

Saga crossed continents

In 2003, when Kapamba was in the middle of a divorce and struggling to raise three toddlers, she tried to bring her mother to Canada to help her.

After a year, Mbuyi moved to South Africa — a country with a Canadian embassy — in the hope of speeding up the process. She thought it would be a short stay.

Instead, Mbuyi remained there alone for 12 years.

In 2010, her sponsorship application was finally accepted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, but a series of delays with the file would keep the family apart for six more years.

Immigration officials moved on Alphonsine Mbuyi's sponsorship file shortly after her daughter, Marie-Flore Kapamba, told her story to CBC News in December 2016.

Response follows CBC report

CBC News reported on their story Dec. 6, 2016. In the story, Kapamba asked John McCallum, who was immigration minister at the time, to intervene so her mother could finally come to Ottawa.

On Dec. 22 Mbuyi finally received a visa.

"Two weeks after that story, we had a positive answer," Kapamba said. "It's unbelievable. It's magic."

But it shouldn't have taken an appeal through the media for the issue to be resolved, Kapamba said. 

"The problem is serious. Taking 13 years, that's long. The lack of humanity was really disappointing for me."

There are currently some 50,000 sponsorship applications in Canada related to parents and grandparents waiting to be processed.