Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Husband barred from Canada

She's 53, he's 32 and feds don't like it

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DIANE STUBBINGTON is one of those women who appears to have the whole package, all tied up in a neat blonde bow.

She is financially secure and independent.

She is bright and beautiful. So striking, in fact, that the willowy Steinbach resident won the role of Len Cariou's wife in Shall We Dance, the film starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez that's currently being shot in Winnipeg.

She also has three grown children.

And, of course, she has a husband -- a third husband -- whom she finally married for the right reasons.

But that's where "the package" starts to fall apart.

She is 53. He is 32.

He is Havana black. She is Manitoba white.

And the government of Canada won't let him in the country.


It's not because Canadian Immigration doesn't believe that Diane (born Nov. 19, 1949) truly loves Reynaldo Baro Baro (born Nov. 17, 1970).

It's his heart they're questioning.

The official answer was delivered to Reynaldo in a decision written eight months after their spring 2001 marriage in Cuba.

"I am of the opinion that you entered into this relationship solely to effect immigration and once in Canada you will not remain with your wife co-habiting under the same roof."

So wrote the female Canadian Embassy Immigration officer in Havana, after an interview that lasted fewer than 20 minutes. She disqualified Diane's handsome, quiet-spoken husband because she judged him to be deceptive.

On the surface, at least, the Immigration gate-keeper's suspicions seem warranted.

Diane and Reynaldo had only spent three weeks together, face to face, over a period of two-and-a-half years, by Diane's count.

Although that wasn't how Reynaldo recalled it in his immigration interview.

While Diane said they had first met casually at a disco in 1998 -- when he was teaching English at a high school -- he remembered meeting at a disco in October 2000, just four months before they were married.

"He simply mixed up the dates," is Diane's defence.

That's possible, of course.

They only began a love affair two months after their second meeting in October of 2000, which could account for Reynaldo's confusion.

As for their quickie love affair and marriage, Diane says this:

"If they don't doubt my love for him, if I can fall in love with him in such a short time, why can't he fall in love with me in such a short time?"

Diane thinks she knows the answer to her own question. She believes that, in spite of all the letters of support from both families and their friends, and all the phone call bills, the embassy official in Havana was stuck on one indisputable fact.

The 21-year age difference.

She believes there is an unwritten double standard at Canadian Immigration based on age and gender when it comes to an older Canadian woman and a younger man.

A reading of the official documents strongly suggests that the two decades between their ages was at the root of the rejection, both by the officer in Havana and another one-woman appeal "panel" decision issued from Vancouver last January.

In the original Havana decision, the official cites Diane's two previous marriages and then infers that Diane shouldn't be marrying someone who is younger than some of her own children.

"Her oldest daughter is 35," the embassy official tells Reynaldo in a letter dated Christmas Eve, 2001. "You are 31."

The decision continues:

"When you were asked if you have thought about your life with your sponsor 10 years from now, you said that you do not think about that, that you only think about your life in the present."

The lost appeal attacks the age issue even more directly, and shamelessly.

"The (husband) and (wife) are not compatible in age, marital or family background."

Not compatible in age?

That sounds as if Diane might have grounds for a human rights complaint.

It also sounds suspiciously sexist.

Particularly when one considers some other May-September, and even May-December, Cuban-Canadian marriages.

Consider, for example, the case of Barry Halipchuk, a salesman at CITI-FM.

He, too, knew his Cuban wife-to-be for two-and-a-half years before they married in the fall of 2000, although they began their romance in a grocery store lineup, not at a disco.

Barry and Caridad's marriage has another difference.

It's Barry who is nearly two decades older than his wife, who now lives here with her seven-year-old Cuban-born child.

Barry was 46 when they married.

Caridad was 28.

"Were you ever asked about the age difference?" I asked Barry.

"Never," he said.

Was your wife?


Diane knows another Canadian-Cuban couple who recently married in Cuba.

They don't want their names used.

Yesterday, I called Maria -- the name I'll give the wife -- at her new home in Canada. In her case, she said, the Canadian Immigration officer who interviewed her in Havana did question the couple's age difference. It's 38 years.

He is 67. She is 29.

But instead of asking her how she saw her life with her spouse in 10 years -- as they had with Reynaldo -- they asked where she saw her life with her Canadian husband in 20 years.

Her answer echoed Reynaldo's.

"I just live in the present," she said.

But she got in. Reynaldo didn't.

Interestingly, Maria knew Reynaldo in Cuba.

I was curious whether he had ever mentioned wanting to leave Cuba before he met Diane.

"No," she said.

In fact, Maria said she was shocked when she heard that.

"He doesn't even want to leave Cuba. He loves his country."

Like Diane, she also believes that there is a sexist double standard involved. She's seen it before. And often.

"It's always a woman married to a younger man. Always."

Local immigration lawyer David Matas is dismayed.

He was Diane's lawyer for the appeal hearing, a four-hour conference call between Winnipeg, Cuba and the one-woman panel in Vancouver.

He says Canadian law requires Immigration officials to judge whether a marriage is genuine. What the government often does, though, is stretch that legislative intent to include deciding whether a marriage will be stable.

"This is going too far," Matas says. "I think it's a misuse of the law."

He says the state has no business second-guessing Diane and Reynaldo's decision.

"What bothers me," he adds, "is she's a mature woman who should be allowed to decide her own future. She was prepared to take the risk."

That's what Diane says.

"I'm the one who signed for him for 10 years, guaranteeing he's not going to be a drain on our government," she says.

What if he's just using her?

If he's using her, he's not doing a very good job of it, she suggests.

Diane says that twice she has offered him $5,000 -- a huge sum in Cuba -- if he just wanted to walk away from the marriage.

Twice he's refused, the latest time after the appeal was lost.

"I wanted to give him an out, "she says. "A chance to get on with his life."

And what if he is allowed in Canada and the marriage doesn't work?

"It's my embarrassment that's on the line," Diane says. "It's my finances that are on the line. It's my self-respect that's on the line. And I'm the one that's willing to put it all on the line.

"He's my husband. I want him in Canada. I want him to have every chance to prove his love for me like I proved my love for him."

But the only person who can give her that chance now is Immigration Minister Denis Coderre himself.

Thus far, all that Coderre's gate-keeps have done is give her the brush-off.

So what will she do if the minister doesn't listen to her public plea?

"I'm moving to Cuba in September to live with Reynaldo," she says. "I have to prove to the government it's a marriage because they don't believe it. I have no option."

What's really sad is that the Canadian government has already denied them two years of their life together.

You see, in spite of her "whole package" appearance, Diane Stubbington's experience with men has been marred by a lack of trust. Starting with the 24-year-old American who got her pregnant at 16 and abandoned her with two babies in San Francisco before she was even 18.

And now, so late in life -- after beating cancer at 35 and being on her own for so many years -- she finally finds the man she's waited a lifetime for.

And it's her country that's denying her happiness because this time, it's her country that has the trust issue.

It's her country that has made a judgment call for her.


Make that a judgmental call.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 9, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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