A plane carrying 24 young Haitians, the first group of children to have their adoptions fast-tracked since the earthquake in Haiti 12 days ago, touched down in Ottawa on Sunday.
Some of the children were wrapped in blue blankets to protect them from the cold as they were carried off an Air Canada Airbus A-330 plane about 7:30 a.m. ET. The children, who are beginning a new life with Canadian families, range in age from 11 months to 14 years.
Canadians with family in Haiti can call the Foreign Affairs Emergency Operations Centre in Ottawa at 800-387-3124, 613-943-1055, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Canadians in Haiti can get in touch with Canadian Embassy officials in Port-au-Prince by calling collect to 613-996-8885.
Fifteen are to be resettled with families in Quebec, while the rest will travel to destinations in British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick.
"She told me this morning that the snow is cold," Gerry Naugler of New Brunswick said about his adoptive daughter. "And mom is putting a new winter coat on them and cleaning them up."
The father said he was at first concerned about their conditions but they appeared to be fine.
"It looks like to me they got a lot of sleep … I am just grateful they are here and safe," he said.
Jean Robert Vaval of Montreal said there were tears of joy and relief when they saw their 14-year-old son, Jordan Noel, who arrived on Sunday's flight. He and his family were very worried about his condition.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said people adopting the children were contacted this weekend about the arrival.
He said about 90 children have been approved by Haitian authorities to live with Canadian families, and 62 of them will be brought to Canada in the coming days.
Between 50 and 60 orphans were supposed to be on Sunday's commercial flight, but an orphanage caring for them in Haiti wasn't yet prepared to turn them over.
The minister said it was touching to see the adoptive parents at the airport, including a man from Victoria who had brought his son and two daughters to meet their new sibling.
"We're delighted that this initial group has come here safely and successfully. All of the kids appear to be healthy — and I think a little bit unnerved by the cold Canadian winter," Kenney said.
Last week, the federal government took steps to fast track adoptions already in the works before this month's earthquake in Haiti.
The Adoption Council of Canada has said it has received an overwhelming number of inquiries about how people can best help Haitian children, and the potential for adoption.