Travel exemption granted to let dying B.C. woman see sister one last time
VANCOUVER -- A terminally ill B.C. woman could soon be reunited with her sister from the Philippines after the family was granted a travel exemption on compassionate grounds.
Charie Santiago's husband told CTV News the exemption was approved over the weekend, just as he was beginning to lose hope that the long-sought reunion would happen in time.
"I'm so relieved," Arthur Santiago said in an email. "I could feel the weight on my shoulders being lifted."
Charie has Stage 4 cancer, and doctors warned the Whistler family back in June that she might only have three months left to live.
The family previously managed to fly her mother over from the Philippines using an exemption to Canada's pandemic travel restrictions, but her sister was denied admittance over the summer.
At the time, siblings didn't fall under the federal government's definition of immediate family – a rule that was changed earlier this month.
Arthur Santiago said he's lost a lot of sleep since the announcement, wondering if the rule was updated fast enough to facilitate his wife's wish.
"I was breaking down," he said. "I couldn't hold it in anymore, I cried pretty hard."
But the family now has hope that the reunion will happen soon. Santiago said the next direct flight from the Philippines departs on Thursday, though it appears to be sold-out.
When announcing the eased restrictions, the federal government said there would be a "robust process" to bring extended family members into Canada during the pandemic, and that people shouldn't make plans until they've received authorization.
Arthur said his wife's sister already has a visa to travel, as she came to visit with her daughter last summer.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber