Seek refuge, but find death

“All of this is the fault of COVID. Sitting in the parking lot of an Anjou supermarket, Enrique Loria speaks in a strangely calm voice, as if numb with sorrow. His wife, the love of his life and the mother of his four-year-old son, died suddenly on May 14, a week before celebrating his 25 spring.

“Crystal was beautiful … She was always happy. She took good care of me and our son. She often said to me, “Don’t go out for nothing.” Because she didn’t want me to get the virus, “said Enrique, who sought asylum in Canada with his family last September.

Crystal did not die from COVID-19. The test on his body was negative. But, according to the young dad, this disease has a lot to do with the sweeping departure of his beloved. Because “if you don’t have the symptoms of COVID, the health system won’t take care of you.”

It was in March, at the start of confinement, that the young woman began to have pain in one eye and severe headaches. Even one evening, she collapsed, semi-conscious, and had strong vomiting. But in the context of the pandemic, the family is advised to wait a little before going to the hospital. French by Enrique et de Cristal is rudimentary and they fear that they will have to pay a high price for treatment. “We were afraid of running out of money,” said Enrique, who had to use food banks to feed his family. During this exceptional period, health care is free for people without health insurance coverage, but only if this care is linked to COVID-19.

With the help of Amparo, a community worker from Carrefour Solidarité Anjou where Cristal took his French lessons, they ended up calling in several clinics. Some still tell them it’s a migraine, others ask them to fill out forms and send photos of the painful eye without any follow-up. “We called back and they told us that they had lost our file. We had to send everything back, ”says Enrique.

More than a headache

No longer able to do so, they go to a hospital in eastern Montreal where Enrique says he had to insist that we examine his sweet. Cristal was finally able to stay but, health protocol obliges, Enrique was sent home with the little one. A few hours later, he received a call from his wife: after waiting in the hot zone, where she was not tested, she was sent home with two Tylenol tablets. “It pissed me off that we weren’t taken seriously. We knew it wasn’t just a headache. “

In early May, Crystal’s headaches intensified. “She said that the pain would kill her,” says her bereaved lover. The benevolent Amparo is still struggling to find them a clinic specializing in ophthalmology. Crystal comes out with eye drops supposed to relieve pain. On this day, they celebrate the four years of their “baby”. It’s a beautiful moment. The grandparents are there on the phone screen. During the night, the young woman feels half of her face which paralyzes. She doesn’t wake her husband, so as not to worry him.

“The next day, we had a great day. I put on one of her blouses to make her laugh. Our little boy thought it was funny, ”says Enrique, touched. “It looked like she knew she was going to die. “

At around 5:15 p.m., he left home to go to his first evening of work in a warehouse, where he would clean red meat with a high-pressure water jet. At 5.30 p.m., Cristal collapses, dead, in front of her baby boy. “He saw it all. He still asks me when the doctors, who left with his mother, are going to bring her back. “

Revealing difficulties

How do you dispose of a body when you are an asylum seeker and you have few means, in addition to a pandemic? Repatriation is “more complicated, if not impossible,” said Carl Thériault, spokesperson for the Regional Reception and Integration Program for Asylum Seekers (PRAIDA).

In Quebec, refugee claimants on social assistance are entitled to a special funeral benefit of up to $ 2,500. But those who have a job do not have access to it, “because they have not yet contributed enough to the Régie des rentes du Québec,” he explains.

“COVID-19 lifts the veil on the difficulties of our asylum seekers,” notes Gilles Provencher, director of Carrefour Solidarité Anjou.

Last Monday, his organization distributed food baskets to 70 families chosen from among the most vulnerable, three times more than usual. PRAIDA says it sees “distress and anxiety” among asylum seekers. Loss of jobs, difficulty finding accommodation, isolation …

“In addition to their precarious condition, they are experiencing uncertainties related to the suspension of the hearings of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada,” said the spokesperson for PRAIDA. “There is also for some a poor understanding of the instructions and measures relating to COVID because of the language barrier. “

Citizens with big hearts

Mariana Infante, community agent for a Saint-Michel organization, knows something about it. She is part of a Facebook group where she regularly translates information about the pandemic into Spanish.

“If the government had done something, like a site that spreads information in multiple languages, it would have been easier,” she said. It is as if he is letting the burden of translating and informing people rest on the shoulders of organizations. “

Organizations that are overwhelmed and to which reinforce Facebook groups of citizens with big hearts.

The Parents de Rosemont group, which helps people in the Latin American community, has supported Enrique’s family from the start. Housing, clothing, furniture. Recently, a crowdfunding campaign was launched to help him in his tragedy. “I have experienced some difficult things here, but I have also met some very good people,” said the young Mexican.

Enrique would like to start working again and dreams of a piano for his boy who loves music. “Cristal would have liked him to play it. “He had to bring himself to cremate the body of his beautiful, even if it was not his will. Besides, he has to leave to go get the ashes.

“Now she’s here,” he said, pointing to his heart. This is what I tell my son when he searches for her. “

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