My Adoption Story - Part 6
Sep 11, 2013
I knew that adopting a baby from Pakistan was going to be difficult. I knew that I would be tested emotionally and spiritually, and that things would not go "exactly" as planned. Like any life-changing journey, there would be bumps and scrapes along the way. I was prepared for this. What I wasn't prepared for was Canada's sudden and unexpected ban on adoptions from Pakistan.
The Pan Canada Ban of the Pakistani Adoption program has left countless families, like myself, trapped in the pipeline. The ban has baffled both parents and adoption practitioners alike. Adoption from Pakistan has been happening for decades and there has never been an issue. Why now?In Pakistan, there is no a formal concept of adoption. The Islamic system of "Kafala" or guardianship, applies. However, caring for orphaned and abandoned children is highly encouraged. People often cite the well-known story of Prophet Muhammad's adoption of Zayd, an orphan boy.
When you adopt a child from Pakistan, you obtain a guardianship order, one that clearly states the child will live with you permanently in Canada, and the adoption will be finalized under Ontario law. The Canadian government's claim that this ban is happening because Pakistan doesn't recognize our concept of adoption is inaccurate and misleading. Pakistan has always had a concept of kafala law, and we have been adopting without issue for decades. Nothing has changed. Many other countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, have no issue with kafala law and continue to allow adoptions from Pakistan. In my quest to get "real" answers, I've been contacting people at both the federal and provincial levels of government. I've met with resistance and have been "stone-walled" at every turn. In speaking to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, I've been told that they will no longer issue visas for babies to come to Canada, as the Ministry of Child and Youth Services are no longer issuing Letters of No Objection (a Letter of No Objection is required to apply for a visa for the baby so that you may return to Canada).
In speaking to the Ministry, I've been told the opposite. They claim that they will no longer issue Letters of No Objection, as Immigration Canada will not issue visas. What? It is apparent that both Immigration Canada and the Ministry are saying very different things. My head spins daily. I feel as though I've had a terrible tumble down the rabbit hole. In my new reality, I don't seem to be able to get a straight answer from anybody. Everyone is pointing a finger in the opposite direction, and no one is accountable. When you are faced with an obstacle that completely derails your life plan, you either accept it, you fight it or you look for another way of achieving your goal. Never being one to walk away from a problem, I decided to tackle it head on. My adoption dream had grown in my heart; it was something I had been working towards for almost a year. I had no choice but to do everything in my power to "fight" the ban that was about to change my life.
First, I sat down with my adoption practitioner and formed a plan. We knew that in order to keep this issue alive, we needed to get people talking, we needed people to ask "why," and that could only be achieved by making as much noise as possible. Immediately, I was on the phone, sharing my story and concerns with my liberal MPP and MP. I talked about the abrupt adoption ban, criticizing Ottawa's misunderstanding of Islamic guardianship law (which does allow abandoned Pakistani children to live permanently in Canada, and have their adoptions finalized here). I talked about my dismay with Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Child & Youth services - neither of whom was willing to talk with me or fully explain the reasons behind the ban.
Without hesitation, my federal MP and her office jumped on the case. This was an issue that interested them; they too had questions and wanted answers. They launched their own investigation, knocking on doors and asking questions. Like myself, they were having trouble getting any real answers. They informed me very matter-of-factly that Ottawa was "circling the wagons." I wondered what mistakes in judgment our government was trying to cover up.
And then we got our first coup: a Toronto Star journalist was interested in the story. He conducted his own investigation, interviewing would-be parents and talking to Muslim clerics about guardianship laws in Islam. The story on Ottawa's "baffling" adoption ban breaks on the front page of the Toronto Star - suddenly, the noise gets louder. Now everyone is talking. And yet another coup, a story breaks in a national Pakistani newspaper. The Pakistani government states it does not ban inter-country guardianship of children (and their subsequent adoption in foreign countries). The article calls out Canada's recent adoption ban, pointing to the fact that the Canadian government's claim that Pakistan's guardianship laws do not allow for adoption has "no legal weight." I quickly email this latest breaking news article to my MP. I ask that they circulate this in Ottawa. I am eager to see how our government responds. How can they possibly maintain the adoption ban, now?
The summer has been long and the "fight" difficult at times, but I feel as though things are finally starting to move in the right direction. And now, like all the other families trapped in the pipeline, I sit and wait for Ottawa's response.
Upcoming: In Part 7, our blogger shares updates on Ottawa's reaction to the latest "news," as well as her new life plan.