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Jessica Robinson, left, on May 13, 2020, and with her partner Adam Farrell at right in March, 2017. Farrell has been told he cannot cross the border into Canada to attend his son's birth.

handout/Handout

An expectant mother says the father of her baby has been prevented from crossing the U.S-Canada border because he was told travelling for the birth of their son is not essential.

Jessica Robinson, 30, said her original due date was May 26. Her partner, Adam Farrell, 45, planned to travel to Ontario from his home in Ohio at the end of April because her physician said it was likely she would be induced early. Ms. Robinson, who is also known as River and uses that name on social media, said they knew the U.S.-Canada border had been closed to non-essential travel, but assumed the birth of their baby would qualify.

But Mr. Farrell said when he tried to cross the border last month, he was rejected, despite presenting plans to self-isolate and providing documents from the family’s physician.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed sympathy for the couple’s situation on Thursday, saying the government knows Canadians are making “extraordinary sacrifices" but did not suggest that any changes would be made at the border.

“I can understand the difficulty and the challenge that closing the borders to all but [essential] travel is causing on many, many families,” Mr. Trudeau said.

“We need to make sure the decisions are taken that are going to protect people. I understand different decisions can be made on a case-by-case basis but what we are doing now is what we need to do to keep Canadians safe for the coming months and years."

Ms. Robinson said she and Mr. Farrell have been together for over three years, dividing their time between Toronto and Ohio. They decided Mr. Farrell would quarantine in Ohio with his kids, and travel to Canada closer to the baby’s due date.

Mr. Farrell said he made two attempts to cross the border in the same day last month. He tried to cross the bridge in Windsor, Ont., where the border guard told him his partner was with family, and it wasn’t necessary for him to travel. The guard also mentioned that the due date was a month away, and he could inquire about crossing when she is in labour.

Because the border guard cited timing as an issue, Mr. Farrell thought presenting paperwork showing his partner’s induction date would help his case. He left the border, gathered the necessary document, and drove to the Port Huron-Sarnia crossing. But when he arrived at the border, he said the guards suggested he was trying to skirt the rules since he had been rejected earlier.

“I’ll be honest, with the way I was treated at the first border crossing, I didn’t feel like there were any compassionate people,” he said.

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Mr. Farrell said the border agent also said that he had been issued an order to leave the country during his first attempt, so they could ban him for a year for making a second try. After presenting his documents, he believes they understood he was simply trying to make his case and decided against penalizing him.

Ms. Robinson said the baby’s due date has been moved to May 20 and she is coming to terms with the fact that her partner won’t be beside her.

“I was so sad and so angry, so I gave myself 24 hours to feel really sorry for myself and then sit in bed and wallow and then I was like, okay, it’s still the birth of my first child. I don’t want to be really sad and causing distress to the baby."

She said she has tried to be optimistic but hearing the border closure has been extended until the end of June brings waves of “panic and fear.”

“What does this mean for my son? It’s just not how I expected my first child to be brought into this world.”

Mr. Farrell said while they understand the gravity of the pandemic, it is important for him to bond with his newborn son. He said he hopes the two countries draft a new agreement that includes some compassion for cases like theirs.

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“It’s a once in a lifetime moment…it’s not like missing a football game or a little league game, that’s missing that one time event when you welcome your child into the world and it was taken away from me, and us,” he said.

Rebecca Purdy, a spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency, said in order to enter the country, a foreign national spouse or immediate family member of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident must show that their travel is essential. If it’s considered non-essential, they will not be allowed to enter Canada.

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