Epic love story : no hurdle too high


NCdt Sylvain Dostie and Renata. He married the “most beautiful woman he had ever seen.”

In an age of viral video marriage proposals, there’s no shortage of proof that some people go above and beyond to show their love for that special someone.

These elaborate productions bring sentimental folks to tears and make the simple “down on one knee” proposal look downright inadequate.

But some of the most powerful love stories can’t be captured in a three minute video full of singing and dancing and nostalgic photo montages.

One of those stories belongs to a Naval Cadet here at CFB Esquimalt, whose tale of love at first sight stretches from Afghanistan to Spain to Brazil and finally to Canada.

In October of 2008, NCdt Sylvain Dostie was a Leading Seaman on his way home to Canada from a deployment in Afghanistan.

On the last day of five in the Spanish town of Torremolinos, he was walking by a beachside restaurant when he caught sight of the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

“I saw Renata working at a restaurant on the beach and so I walked into the restaurant. I wasn’t hungry, but I was stunned,” he says.

Building up the courage to talk to her, he ordered and ate lunch in the nearly empty restaurant, then walked to the bar to strike up a conversation with her.

“I started speaking in English, but she didn’t understand,” he says.

Despite both of them being bilingual – he French and English, she Spanish and Portuguese – the pair didn’t have a common language between them, so they resorted to scribbling pictures on napkins. 

From a doodle of the world and some arrows, NCdt Dostie learned that Renata was Brazilian.

Following relatively successful efforts to learn about each other, NCdt Dostie decided to ask Renata out on a date that night.

It would be his only chance because his flight back to Canada was scheduled to leave the next day.

Changing their communication method from Pictionary to Charades, he mimicked the act of drinking beer to ask her out for a drink after work.

She agreed.

Returning at eight o’clock that night, he was greeted with the disappointing news that Renata had already gone home.

“I misunderstood the time with the language barrier,” he says.

With his plane set to leave the next day, he resigned himself to the fact that the relationship was simply not meant to be.

But the next morning the plane was delayed 24 hours due to a mechanical problem.

Ecstatic at the news, he hustled back to the restaurant and waited for Renata.

“I was surprised,” she says. “I didn’t expect to see him because the next day he was going home.”

They arranged another date for that evening.

Following a wonderful, but all too short evening together, the two exchanged emails and the next morning NCdt Dostie boarded his plane back to Canada.

Using Google Translate on Skype, they chatted as much as they could, and NCdt Dostie set out to learn Portuguese.

“I knew she was going to be the one I wanted to marry. I knew that for a fact,” he says. “I just didn’t know how to tell her.”

A year later, he encouraged Renata to visit him in Canada, so she applied for a Visitor’s Visa, which is required for residents of Brazil.

Immigration Canada denied her 

“They were afraid, because it was a new relationship, and if it clicked, maybe we would want to stay together and she would not go back home at the end of her stay,” says NCdt Dostie.

It was a blow for both of them, but more so for NCdt Dostie who had recently been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Despite the setbacks, NCdt Dostie would not be deterred. In March of that year – after writing a letter in Portuguese to Renata’s mother asking for her blessing – he popped the question via Skype.

“It was beautiful and my mom was surprised,” says Renata.

“I told her all about him, that we met in Spain. She was a little bit afraid of course and at the same time happy for me because I was very happy.”

Saying yes without hesitation, Renata began planning for an August wedding in Brazil.

Although NCdt Dostie was free to fly there without a Visa, a month before the big day an aggressive virus attacked his liver, leaving him jaundiced, weak, and physically unable to travel.

He was put on the liver transplant list, though his doctor didn’t hold out much hope that one would be available before he suffered complete liver 
But fate intervened again.

His immune system kicked in, the jaundice disappeared, and food started to look appetizing again.

A shadow of his former self, the six foot tall NCdt Dostie weighed just 120 pounds, but he was determined to stand at an altar beside his fiancée a week later.

Days after the wedding, the newlyweds got to work filling out the forms for Renata’s Permanent Resident application, and prepared to wait out the estimated 18 months for it to be processed.

Fortunately, the couple wouldn’t have to wait that long to see each other again.

In November, while working at Fleet School, NCdt Dostie learned from the Coxswain that he had been awarded the Sacrifice Medal, which is awarded to military members who were injured as a result of service in Afghanistan.

Not only that, he and his family would have a private audience with Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles who were visiting CFB Esquimalt on the same day as the medal ceremony.

NCdt Dostie informed the Coxswain that none of his family would be able to attend.

His mother had passed away, his father was too sick to travel from his Quebec home, and his wife was in Brazil.

But with the blessing of his Coxswain, NCdt Dostie was able to fly back to Brazil, get Renata a Visitor’s Visa, and bring her back to Canada.

Two days later, not fully understanding what was happening, Renata watched her husband receive his medal from then Chief of the Maritime Staff, RAdm McFadden.

Not long after, her eyes full of surprise, she watched Prince Charles chat with her husband.

“It was like a movie, unbelievable,” says Renata. “It’s something I keep in my mind forever.”

It was an auspicious beginning to her six month stay in Canada, during which she got her Military Family ID card and learned English at the Military Family Resource Centre.

To their surprise, Renata’s Permanent Resident documents were processed by the time her Visa expired, so she returned to Brazil to do an interview with Immigration Canada staff and her new Visa was approved.

On Aug. 2, 2010, she returned to Canada permanently, and three days before Valentine’s Day of this year, she will officially become a Canadian Citizen, having aced the citizenship test last month.

It’s taken six and a half years, a lot of determination, lots of love, and a little luck to finally be a family, but the couple believes it was meant to be.


Carmel Ecker
Staff Writer

Filed Under: Top Stories


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  1. Sylvain Dostie says:

    Thank you, Shawn. Sorry for the delay in the reply, I hadn’t noticed! My wife and I love to remind ourselves of that story. We have been married for 9 years now (tomorrow), and love every minute of it.


  2. Shawn says:

    I am very pleased for the both of you, as a former member of the CF I have come across a few friends that have been lucky enough to make it.

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