Couple to marry after closure of U.S.-Canada border separates them

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (CBC/CNN) - It’s not quite a green card marriage, but the result is the same.

Couples are getting married before they really want to so they can see each other because of the border crossing policy between the U.S. and Canada.

Saralyn Russell lives in Winnipeg. Her fiancée Rachael lives in Grand Forks, N.D.

“So we actually matched on a dating app because we lived so close together. The app offered us both as an option, and we didn’t realize that we were from different countries,” Russell said.

They’re only a three-hour drive away, but they’ve been separated for more than three months because of the border closure.

“We’re used to seeing each other every weekend,” Russell said.

They were engaged before COVID-19 hit. Then everything fell apart. So the couple has made a quick decision.

“We are only getting married this Monday because the government will not let her in if we don’t do this,” Russell said.

Two weeks ago, the federal government announced it would allow immediate family members to cross the border and be reunited. But it only applies if you are married or common law. That’s left countless couples who are in long-term relationships or engaged separated by the border.

“She’s not allowed to enter Canada at all, and I’m not allowed to drive to America. But I am allowed to fly because that’s how they’ve decided to handle the situation,” Russell said.

She will fly to Minneapolis and then drive four hours to Grand forks. They’ll get married with two witnesses they’ve hired.

“It certainly wasn’t going to be, like, this under all this pressure. It’s kind of become more of a legal transaction because we’re trying to respect the policies in place, rather than an actual ceremony,” Russell said.

Russell has even gone to her member of parliament, Raquel Dancho, who says the border should be open to all couples in long-term relationships.

“Will this government allow American/Canadian couples to be reunited, yes or no?” Dancho said.

“Thank the member for the questions, and this has been a challenging issue as we have made every effort to restrict non-essential travel across our borders,” said Bill Blair, the Canadian Minister Of Public Safety.

Russell said the hardest part is not knowing when they’ll see each other again.

“A lot of tears, a lot of dashed hopes, every time the border closure gets near the end, we all get really excited and make plans, and then a couple days before, it’s always being extended another 30 days,” she said. “They’re basically saying if we don’t get married, we don’t consider your partner to be essential.”

The wedding is bittersweet. They’ll have four days together before Russell has to go back to Canada, not knowing when they’ll see each other again.

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