Dad faces immigration roadblock after wife’s death,
They fell in love while backpacking in Australia. He was charmed by her “sparkling eyes” and sense of adventure. She adored his rugged good looks.
“It was love at first sight,” New Zealander Scott Mailman says of meeting Canadian Lisa Chapman in Sydney in 2004. “She was the most positive, happy and adventurous person.” But theirs was a love story without a happy ending. On Oct. 6 — years after they married, had a daughter and moved to Canada to be near her parents, and almost two years after she began the process of sponsoring Scott for permanent residency — Lisa Mailman, 37, died of cancer in their Port Perry, Ont., home, her distraught husband by her side.
Now, after having been told twice he’d have to leave Canada because his sponsor — his wife — is dead, Scott Mailman, 37, is in limbo, wading through a pile of conflicting information and trying to figure out exactly where he stands.
Just two hours after Lisa died, an email arrived saying the processing of their application was being finalized and inviting them in for a final interview.
“We came back to Canada because Lisa wanted our daughter to grow up here,” said Mailman, his voice choked with emotion.
“The irony of the whole situation is I’ve been legally staying here all this time and waiting for the processing of our application. After Lisa died, they said, ‘You’re not welcome.’ ”
The only way for Mailman and his daughter to stay in Canada, their families and supporters say, is for Immigration Minister John McCallum to make an exemption and grant him permanent resident status on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
“We can’t go by our rule-is-a-rule-is-a-rule. The system has to be flexible. They can’t just shut the door as soon as my daughter died,” said Lisa’s father, Whitby resident Ray Chapman, who with his wife, Teresa, is devastated at the thought of being torn away from their granddaughter.
Sydney, now 31⁄ 2, was named after the city in which her parents met. She is a Canadian citizen through her mother, but would go back to New Zealand with her dad.
“Only the immigration minister has the power now to let them stay,” said Chapman. “They have been vetted up and down. If they can bring in the Syrian refugees quickly, why did it take two years for people who go by the rules? It was dragged out for no reason.”
Mailman said he was told twice he would have to leave the country immediately — once in person, during his October appointment with immigration, and once over the phone, when he contacted the call centre after receiving a letter Nov. 12, saying the spousal sponsorship had been rejected.
But when contacted by the Star on Fri- day, an Immigration department spokesperson said Mailman doesn’t have to leave immediately because he still has an open work permit — issued in conjunction with his now-void sponsorship application — that is valid until October 2017.
“Our condolences to Mr. Mailman and his family. There is no indication in our records that Mr. Mailman has been asked to leave Canada,” the spokesperson said. She suggested he apply for immigration under the economic class based on education, work skills and experience — a category Mailman, who dropped out of college, would likely not qualify for.
Lisa was diagnosed with glassy cell carcinoma — a form of aggressive cancer in the uterine area — in March 2014, two months after the couple had applied for spousal sponsorship.
In and out of hospital for radiation and chemotherapy, Lisa returned home for palliative care in September and died at 8 a.m. Oct. 6.
While Mailman was on his computer delivering the sad news to friends, an email alert showed a letter had arrived from immigration around 10 a.m. asking the couple to attend an interview — a final step in the sponsorship process — Oct. 16 at its Etobicoke office.
Mailman and his father-in-law attended the meeting — the only time they saw an immigration officer faceto-face after the sponsorship application was submitted in January 2014.
The application was officially refused in a Nov. 6 letter.
“Given the unfortunate circumstance, please be advised that the eligibility requirements for sponsorship will not be met,” the letter said.
Mailman gets emotional when he talks about Lisa: “She was the most beautiful girl I ever met,” he says of his late wife.
The couple lived in New Zealand, near Wellington, for several years, where she worked as an office administrator and he as a commercial construction contractor.
They married in Brampton in 2007 before returning to New Zealand, where they lived until November 2012, when Sydney was 8 months old.
Mailman was admitted to Canada under the International Experience Class category, which allowed him to work here legally for up to a year. The couple then filed their spousal sponsorship forms in early 2014.
Chapman has tried to act as his son-in-law’s sponsor on behalf of Lisa, knowing Mailman would have no problem supporting himself and his granddaughter.
“They have all their support in Canada. I am hating it. It’s a long way to New Zealand. My wife is not well and can’t fly 24 hours to New Zealand. And we won’t be able to see Sydney,” said Chapman. “It will break my wife’s heart.”