When Jonathon Monaghan served with the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan in 2009 he formed a bond with his Afghan interpreter that endures to this day.
Now Monaghan and his wife, Kara, are trying to get his former interpreter, his wife and 30 members of his extended family to the security of Halifax.
Monaghan said they are applying for permanent residence for the family under a special Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provision for extended families of former Afghan interpreters.
CBC News is protecting the former interpreter’s identity for his personal safety. The man and his family are in hiding in Kabul.
Monaghan’s job in Afghanistan was to make contact with the locals to develop an information chain and gather intelligence, he said, and his friend was his main interpreter.
“When we put ourselves in harm’s way when we were in Afghanistan, our interpreters were standing right next to us,” Monaghan said. “Not behind us or hiding or at the back of the group. They were right next to us.”
Returned to Afghanistan
After returning to Canada, Monaghan worked to get his former interpreter Canadian citizenship and he settled in Toronto in 2017 where he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
But his friend found it hard living alone and when he learned that his mother was ill in Afghanistan, he returned to look after her. While there, his mother arranged a marriage for him and died a short time later.
When the Taliban took over the country in 2021, he found himself trapped there with his pregnant wife, two brothers and two sisters and their families.
The former interpreter is the only member of his family with travel documents, Monaghan said, and the other 31 family members are hoping to get their documents when the passport offices are opened in the next two weeks.
Speaking to CBC News from Kabul over the phone using a secure connection to Monaghan as a relay, the former interpreter said he was picked up two days ago by the Taliban and beaten badly.
He said one of his brothers worked for the police under a past government, another worked for the air force and a sister worked for intelligence. They all feel they are targets.
For their safety, he said he and his family members have been changing their locations frequently. The children in the family have also not been able to attend school for fear of them being kidnapped.
He said he and his family are eternally grateful for Monaghan’s loyalty and for the work he is doing to get them to Halifax.
“My family keep asking what’s going on and I’m just telling them that Jon is working hard and everyone is very happy,” he said. “Fortunately there’s a hope, and behind that hope, Jon is there.”
Monaghan said he and his wife has been working with others to get the family to Canada.
An Afghan-born University of Toronto professor communicated with the family by email and completed the 300 pages of paperwork, Monaghan said.
IRCC paperwork submitted
Monaghan said they then took the paperwork to their lawyer who had a video conference with his friend and notarized the documents. They then sent it to IRCC’s office in Sydney, N.S.
Monaghan said that they have also spoken to Aman Lara, a group that helps get people out of crisis areas, to get the family across the Pakistan border once the immigration papers are approved and travel documents are obtained.
He said he estimates it will cost over $150,000 to get the family to Canada safely and there will be a number of fundraising efforts, including a raffle for a trip for two to Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia by helicopter.
After his recent experience with the Taliban, Monaghan’s Afghan friend said he hopes the immigration process moves as quickly as possible.
“I’m really scared that these people don’t have any rules or any law,” he said. “They were going to take me somewhere and beat me to death so I don’t want to be faced with that problem or my family.”
In response to questions from CBC News, the IRCC said the government remains committed to welcoming at least 40,000 Afghan nationals to Canada.
“Applications received under the public policy for extended family members of Afghan interpreters continue to be processed on a priority basis,” the email said.
“However, the timelines for arrival will depend on where applicants currently reside, how country conditions impact our ability to process their applications (i.e., complete security screening, collect biometrics) and whether applicants have the right documents to travel and/or the ability to do so (i.e., access to a functioning airport).”
According to the IRCC the variables involved makes it impossible to provide an accurate timeline for expected arrivals under the program.
Canada has welcomed 10,025 Afghan refugees since August 2021, the email said. That number included people arriving in Canada under all immigration streams.