Changes to Canada's pandemic-era travel restrictions have given new hope to a Whistler, B.C., man hoping his terminally-ill wife can be reunited with her sister from the Philippines.
Arthur Santiago's wife, Charie, has Stage 4 cancer, and in June, was told she only has three to six months to live.
Her mother was able to come from the Philippines to see her, but her sister, April, and her young niece were denied on July 30, because at the time they did not fit the federal government's definition of immediate family.
On Oct. 2, Ottawa announced changes to the restrictions that will now make siblings eligible as well.
"I'm very grateful," Arthur said, recalling his wife's reaction to the news. "Charie smiled there for a second. It was amazing to see."
However, the next direct flight from the Philippines to Canada leaves this Thursday – the same day the government has said it will make more detailed information on the process and requirements available online.
According to a federal government news release from last week, "There will be a robust process in place for extended family members, and each traveller will need to apply for and be issued an authorization before they can travel to Canada."
The government also stressed people should not make travel plans until they have "met all requirements and obtained all necessary authorizations."
Arthur is worried if his wife's sister isn't able to travel here this week, it may be too late.
"I just want them to be able to spend some good quality time and while Charie's still coherent and still understands everything that's going on," Arthur said, adding his wife sleeps for the majority of day as she uses all her energy to fight the disease. "Every day is a gift right now and I don't want to miss out on this opportunity."
Arthur said his wife's sister already has a visa to travel, as she came to visit with her daughter last summer. She just needs the green light from Ottawa to return.
For now, Arthur said, Charie's sister is preparing all the necessary documents, and is also planning to take a COVID-19 test before she leaves. They're hoping she will be able to quarantine with Charie, but will also have an alternative plan in case that is not possible.
The federal government said travellers may seek approval for limited release from the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for compassionate reasons, such as visiting a critically-ill loved one.
West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP Patrick Weiler told CTV News the policy changes could be a "game changer" for Charie's sister.
He has written to the immigration minister about Charie, to see if there's any way she can be on that direct flight this week.
"I'm not going to speculate on whether it might be possible or not at this time, but I can commit that I'll do everything that I can to advocate for that flexibility to be there," Weiler said.
He added he also has a meeting with the minister on Tuesday where he will raise the issue.
"If it's not on that date, there may be another indirect flight shortly after that that they would be able to get on. The other factor of course is that when the flight would be leaving it would actually be on Wednesday in Eastern Time, so that may pose another issue."
Arthur said he's thankful for everyone who has offered support, and now he's just hoping Charie and her sister can be reunited as soon as possible.
"Time is so crucial right now... every day, she gets weaker, she has a harder time waking up," he said. "I've got my fingers crossed that another miracle will happen here and we can get them together sooner than later."