Marjorie Newell-Asamoah and her husband Selase Asamoah will be celebrating their first wedding anniversary next month, but the pair is doubtful they will be able to spend it together.
In fact, Newell-Asamoah, who resides in Nova Scotia, is not sure when she will see her husband again. Asamoah lives in his home country of Ghana, where he works as a music producer, and has so far had four visa applications to visit his wife denied by the Canadian government.
The whole ordeal has been amplified by misinformation and prejudice that Newell-Asamoah says has come from the office of her MP Darrell Samson.
“It’s been hell for both of us,” Newell-Asamoah said of her time apart from her husband, and the rigamarole they have had to go through to attempt to be near one another.
Speaking with The Chronicle Herald, Newell-Asamoah said she has visited her husband twice in Ghana since their wedding last fall. But after beginning a new job where she was unable to get vacation time, they began applying for visas for him to visit her. Anyone travelling to Canada from Ghana for any reason must obtain a temporary visa to do so.
Asamoah is in the process of selling her home in Nova Scotia to move to Ghana to be with her husband, where they plan to start a parrot rescue together. But due to a back injury, Newell-Asamoah needs her husband to help her pack up and prepare for the move.
After her husband’s first visa application was rejected on the grounds that officals did not believe he had sufficient assets in or ties to Ghana that would entice him to leave Canada at the end of his visa, Newell-Asamoah said she went to her MPs office for advice. She said she met with Samson’s assistant Norman Doucet who offered to help the couple reapply with more documents and information.
When her husband was declined two more times, she said Doucet then wrote a letter on her behalf to immigration officials and applied a fourth time, which was also rejected.
“Then he said ‘Marjorie, something’s not right.’”
According to Newell-Asamoah, Doucet encouraged her to apply for the case notes on her husband’s file from the Canadian government. It took her 30 days, but she eventually received the 214 page hyper-technical document and passed it along to Samson’s office.
“(Doucet) immediately called me and followed up with an email saying that my husband was married to someone in the (United) States, and said he has a criminal background,” Newell-Asamoah said.
What followed, she claims, was a harrowing two-week ordeal where Samson’s office, via Doucet and even Samson himself, tried to convince her that her husband was a criminal with ties to terrorism, drug trafficking or human trafficking and that she needed to divorce him.
During this time Newell-Asamoah said she doubted her relationship, despite her husband’s insistence that the information was completely inaccurate. Eventually, she said, he was able to obtain a certificate from Ghanaian officials showing he had no criminal record.
As Newell-Asamoah began digging into where the information about her husband’s alleged criminal background came from with the help of Halifax immigration lawyer Lee Cohen, it was determined that at no time did immigration officials mention anything about criminality in her husband’s case file. The only reference was a letter that actually originated from Samson’s office.
In a letter to Newell-Asamoah written by Doucet late last month, which has been obtained by The Chronicle Herald, he admits to making a typo in one of his own letters to officials with the Canadian High Commission in Ghana saying “Mr. Asamoah is not a Canadian but his wife is a proud Canadian and she has a criminal element in his history. According to the letter, Doucet meant to say “has no criminal element in her history.”
The original correspondence from Doucet was simply noted by immigration officials in the case files as being unclear, and later allegedly interpreted by Doucet as proof of Asamoah’s criminal activity.
As for what Newell-Asamoah was told about her husband’s alleged criminal activities? She said she has no idea where that came from.
“That was just his opinions,” she said.
As it turned out, the claim that her husband was already married was also untrue, Newell-Asamoah said, a misread of a portion of the case file that was referring to information being shared between Canada and a “partner” country — the United States — about Asamoah’s travel history.
Newell-Asamoah’s lawyer Lee Cohen verified that her husband has not been denied entry to Canada based on any past criminality.
“It appears to be rejected on the traditional grounds that are very often used when people from Africa apply for visitor status in Canada, and that is financial and assets and travel history and a concern that the person will not return to their home country after the visitation period is over. This whole noise about criminality appears not to have any merit whatsoever,” he said. “The thing that concerns me about the whole mess is that it appears Mr. Samson’s office has been giving legal advice to Marjorie and has been communicating with Marjorie in a way that has her doubting the integrity of her own husband.”
Cohen said it’s very typical for someone from a non-white country to be denied a visitor visa to Canada, and this is doubly true when there is a romantic interest involved.
Furthermore, he said, age discrimination is alive and well in the immigration system — Newell-Asamoah is more than 20 years older than her husband, something Cohen said might be a factor in his rejections.
“If you’re black, if you’re coming from an African country, if you’re coming to see someone in whom you have a romantic interest or worse if you’re married to that person, if there’s a significant age difference, you’re going to get rejected,” he said.
Despite the challenges their relationship has faced and their age difference, Newell-Asamoah said she and her husband are confident in their love for one another and committed to being together soon.
In a letter he wrote to immigration officials, Asamoah says the same.
“Marjorie is very special,” he writes. “Not only is she beautiful but she has a wonderful sense of humour and is very loving. I feel she’s helping me grow as a person and I’m excited to see what the future holds for us.”
Newell-Asamoah said she will keep fighting for her husband to be by her side, and is expecting an apology from Samson’s office.
The Chronicle Herald reached out to Doucet personally but he declined comment. Samson’s office said he was unavailable for an interview Friday, but sent an emailed statement saying the office regularly assists constituents with immigration issues, to explain the options available and help them navigate the process.
“While we cannot comment on the specifics of individual cases, we are always here to help our constituents with any federal government matter,” the statement says.
“Ultimately, the Department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship has the authority to approve or deny claims.”