2020-08-26

Kat Wright wins lengthy immigration battle

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>David and Kat Wright at a community meeting discussing their immigration case at the Voglers Cove Community Hall in April, 2017.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Kat Wright in front of her Voglers Cove home where she can now stay.</p>

After eight years of battling for the right to remain living in Canada, Kat Wright of Voglers Cove can, in the words of her Halifax lawyer, "stand down."

On August 7, at 3:34 p.m., the American received a call "out of the blue" from Immigration and Citizenship Canada confirming she has been granted permanent residency. It was the final resolution to a lengthy appeal against deportation on humanitarian grounds submitted with her late husband, David.

A couple of hours later, Kat had it in writing via email.

"I was jumping up and down, but I was crying at the same time. I wish David were here, really," said the 77-year-old widow.

During the years of uncertainty over the American couple's immigration status, David suffered from cancer. He beat the disease, but succumbed to a heart attack in the kitchen of their Voglers Cove home in July, 2019.

The Wrights' immigration lawyer, Lee Cohen, expressed a similar "bitter sweet" sentiment to the news of Kat's permanent residency.

"I'm off the ground pleased for Kat that this war is finally over, and a war that she won. And she can now spend the rest of her days of her life in her beloved Voglers Cove, where she has long wanted to be and where she has long been, without fear that at some moment in time she was going to have to pick herself up and remove herself from Canada, back to the United States ... It's been an exhausting battle for her," Cohen commented to LighthouseNOW.

"I'm also despondent that David did not live long enough to enjoy this moment," he added.

"David and I were partners. We were a unit for so long. Our whole adult lives, really. Now, at least I can think, 'What comes next?'" Kat told LighthouseNOW. "It's an enormous relief to have this off my shoulders."

It had always been the Wrights' dream to settle in Nova Scotia, which they first did in 1972, having been granted permanent residency under the prevailing immigration system.

For the next five years, they began establishing roots in Voglers Cove, with David becoming a lobster fisherman while Kat worked at a local fish plant and continued with her writing and editing. But they struggled financially, and decided to retreat to the U.S. to shore up their bank account with pro-offered work there, intending to return at some point.

They bought a property in Voglers Cove in 2011, but when they returned to live there a year later they found their residency status had become invalidated because they didn't possess the specific number of days in Canada required to maintain permanent status.

The couple immediately contacted Cohen, who helped them appeal the decision. They won, but Ottawa countered with a successful appeal of its own, and the Wrights' residency status was denied again.

While working as a "small-time editor" for newsletters and other publications, Kat founded and helped run a free library program at the Voglers Cove Community Hall. She also organizes authors' readings in the community.

As well as being a founding member of the volunteer United Communities Fire Department, David was an experienced technical designer who had become proficient at a mechanical 3D design program. He catered to a number of U.S. clients, including one for which he designed sensors for crash test dummies.

According to Kat, both immigration hearings they attended saw 40 to 50 people there to support them from Voglers Cove and surrounding communities. "The hearing adjudicator was astonished that so many people came," she reported.

Eventually, Kat and David had exhausted all other means in their legal attempt to call Canada home. Facing deportation in December, 2017, and as a last resort, the seniors had Cohen submit an application for humanitarian and compassionate leave to stay in Canada. The application meant they were able to remain in the country while the application wound its way through the system.

In January, 2018, Bridgewater Town Council heard from advocates championing the Wrights. "Considering that rural Nova Scotia is struggling to attract qualified migrants, the Wrights have proven themselves as a welcome addition to our collective population," commented Christina Andrews.

Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell described the couple as contributors and not burdens to the community and said he was perplexed at the permanent residency flip-flop. The Municipality of the District of Lunenburg wrote a letter in support of the couple.

The U.S. social security benefits Kat is receiving is helping her to get by. "It is just enough for me to maintain paying my bills. But, if I have to move back to the States, I couldn't afford a place to live. I couldn't afford the trip. I couldn't afford health care. It's overwhelming," she lamented last year.

And to have been forced to go back to the U.S. now with the pandemic rampant, "it would have been disastrous," she told LighthouseNOW.

Upon hearing the good news earlier this month, Kat immediately wrote appreciation letters to those who had supported her and David in their battle. After waiting the required three years, she intends to apply for her Canadian citizenship. And she's adamant she'll stay in her current property.

"Oh yes. I have very good friends here. It's a wonderful community. I love being here," she said.

According to Cohen, Canada's immigration system is "brutal" for what it puts some people through.

"In the case of Kat and David, we went through two full immigration appeal hearings, one full judicial review application with the Federal Court of Canada. It's an awful lot of legal work for an aging senior couple to have to go through to do nothing more than simply want to remain in rural Nova Scotia and contribute to their community in a way that they have for so many years. And in a way that most people don't," said Cohen.

"There just should have been a faster, easier, less emotional and less challenging way for them to accomplish what they have now accomplished."

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