The Dryden, Ont., congregation of an Anglican minister backs his application for permanent residency in Canada, but 18 months after last having contact with the government, he's still waiting for an answer.
Rev. Naboth Manzongo is originally from Zimbabwe and came to Canada in October 2018 to become the full-time minister at St. Luke's Anglican Church. Originally hired in February 2018, he didn't start until later in the year because of delays at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
Manzongo is on a work permit that expires in February 2022. He said that on the advice of immigration consultants, he got a work permit first and planned to bring his family later.
– Rev. Naboth Manzongo
Even a day would mean a lot to me, because, I mean, I just want to be with my family. I have been away from them for a very long time.
"When I landed, then we started to apply for the family," he said. "We did three … visa applications for my family to come, but they were all denied, and then… I was advised to make a permanent residency application because I qualified for that, and that [would] ensure that my family will come."
Manzongo said all his family members passed their medical exams and other requirements to immigrate to Canada in December 2019. Since then, however, he hasn't heard anything on the status of his file.
"So after six months, the initial six months, which is expected that an application will be approved in May of 2020, I did send an email checking on my application and [if] I needed to send them any other papers," he said. "But then they [said] that everything was OK, and [we'll] come back to you. Since then, I've been following up every month and there's nothing that they have replied me."
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada confirmed to CBC News in a statement that the file for Manzongo, his wife and two children is still in progress.
The agency said it had experienced delays due to COVID-19 and was unable to provide timelines on how soon applications would be processed. It said that in November 2020, it processed nearly 30,000 permanent residency applications, which is close to its pre-pandemic levels.
Immigration experts told CBC News the processing times for permanent resident applications can vary and are dependent on which office handles the file. Delays of more than six months are not unheard of, they said.
Church behind him
"Leadership is the big thing, you know," said John Dove, the warden of St. Luke's in Dryden.
The congregation wants stability and has enjoyed having Mangonzo at the helm for nearly the past three years, said Dove.
"He is the spiritual leader of the church, and the system that essentially guides people through worship and guides us through the religious response, if you will, to the social issues of the day."
Parishioners have written letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and have attempted to contact Eric Melillo, Kenora riding MP, but no responses have been received.
Melillo's office told CBC News, "The immigration status of constituents is a private matter, and our office is not allowed to comment on cases."
Manzongo said he misses his family. He last saw his son in person when he was five months old, and he's now three years old.
"Even a day would mean a lot to me, because, I mean, I just want to be with my family. I have been away from them for a very long time.
"Sometimes I [wonder if] there are people who [see] these applications or they are only machines, because if they are people, I think they can also feel the cry of a parent who wants to be with his family."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.
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