PEI

P.E.I. woman's request to attend her mother's burial in N.B. denied, leaving her heartbroken 

Tanya Augustine couldn’t be by her mother’s side when she died, and she is heartbroken that officials in New Brunswick denied her travel request to attend the funeral.

‘I just want her to know that I’m sorry’

Tanya Augustine says she’ll take a moment this Friday at noon, as her mother is being laid to rest, to remember her. (Ken Linton/CBC)

Tanya Augustine couldn't be by her mother's side when she died. 

Augustine lives on Lennox Island First Nation, in western Prince Edward Island. 

Her mother, Linda Augustine, lived in New Brunswick. In March, Linda died of complications from lung cancer only four days after going to see her doctor. She had been feeling ill and was having trouble breathing.

There's got to be some compassion.— Tanya Augustine

And while her mother's death happened suddenly, Tanya had hoped to at least be there for the funeral at the Red Bank First Nation. 

She was heartbroken when officials in New Brunswick denied her travel request.

Linda Augustine died March 26.

COVID-19 restrictions prevented the family from having a wake or funeral at the time. They decided to have the burial on June 5.

Linda Augustine, holding Tanya Augustine's son, Kinston, who is now 12. Linda Augustine died suddenly of complications due to lung cancer. (Tanya Augustine )

Tanya Augustine said on May 21, two weeks before the burial, she reached out to officials in New Brunswick's public health and public safety divisions for approval to attend her mother's burial and celebration of life. She had a 14-day self-isolation plan in place in N.B. and for when she returned to P.E.I.

Within a couple of hours, Augustine received a call back with the news — the answer was no.

"That part took me back a bit."

Augustine had also contacted P.E.I. government officials with her plans to self-isolate upon her return. She said that was approved.

'I know she understands'

New Brunswick officials told CBC News the province may authorize travel into the province for compassionate reasons. That may include end-of-life visitation, care for a person in need of in-home support or to provide child-care services. 

But government clearly states on its website that "travel into New Brunswick for funerals and celebrations of life is not permitted at this time."

Augustine said that has to change, not just for her but for other families facing the same situation. 

"There's got to be some compassion," she said. "She's my mother and I don't know how the government can just say no it's not essential. It is essential."   

Tanya Augustine of Lennox Island was heartbroken after being told by New Brunswick officials she could not attend her mother's burial. (Tanya Augustine )

Augustine's family decided their mother's burial should go ahead this week.

"I spoke to my brother and my sister and they decided that my mother had to be laid to rest and as heartbreaking as it was that I wasn't going to be there ...  I agreed. I agreed that she should be laid to rest," Augustine said, choking back tears.

"It was just a difficult decision to make, when she gave birth to me. But I understand and I know she understands and I'll be there when I can, when the province opens up, but it was difficult. It's so hard."         

'I'm going to sit and pray' 

Augustine said gathering to mourn is important to all families and especially in First Nation communities.

Tanya Augustine shared this photo of her and her mother during a fishing trip in northern New Brunswick. (Tanya Augustine )

Despite not being there in person, Augustine said she'll take a moment to remember her mother this Friday at noon, as she is being laid to rest in New Brunswick.

"I just want her to know that I'm sorry," said Augustine as she looked at photographs of her and her mom during a fishing trip in northern New Brunswick, tears filling her eyes again. 

"The minute the province of New Brunswick and P.E.I. go into a bubble, I am going to be the first one across the Confederation Bridge and I'm going to go straight to her final resting place and I'm going to sit and pray ... that's all I can do."    

More from CBC P.E.I.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wayne Thibodeau

Prince Edward Island

Wayne Thibodeau is a reporter/editor with CBC Prince Edward Island. He has worked as a reporter, editor, photographer and video journalist in print, digital and TV for more than 20 years. He can be reached at Wayne.Thibodeau@CBC.ca

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