Nfld. & Labrador

Federal Court rules in favour of Newfoundland family in immigration battle

Vaden Earle has been trying for more than a decade to bring a Haitian teenager to Canada as part of his family.

Vaden Earle has been trying since 2009 to bring a Haitian teenager to Canada as part of his family

Widlene's Canadian family sent her flowers on Valentine's Day earlier this month. Widlene lives in the Dominican Republic, while her family seeks a temporary resident permit to enable them to bring her to Canada. (Submitted)

"Bring Widlene Home" has been the slogan of Vaden Earle's campaign on behalf of a Haitian teenager who's been part of his family for more than a decade.

Now, a Federal Court ruling brings that one step closer to being a reality, according to the Newfoundland man.

"Finally somebody agrees with what we've been saying," Earle told CBC's Newfoundland Morning.

"The Federal Court judge basically eviscerates every argument that the Immigration Department has given against bringing her to Canada."

Earle, who was born and raised on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula, accepted an orphaned Haitian girl, Widlene, into his family in 2009 when he was doing humanitarian work in the Dominican Republic.

Earle initially intended to adopt the girl and had received approval for the adoption back in 2009. Then, the devastating earthquake in Port-au-Prince in January 2010 buried the family's Haitian documentation and killed their case worker, making it impossible to finalize the adoption.

Since then, Earle has not been able to convince Canadian authorities to grant Widlene a temporary resident permit so she can come to Canada.

Widlene is seen here with her Canadian family, including Vaden Earle. (Submitted)

As a result, Widlene has been in bureaucratic limbo, forced to remain in the Dominican Republic, under the watchful care of Earle or one of his family members.

Even a direct appeal by Earle to the Canadian government has not resulted in a resolution to the matter.

But Earle hopes that is about to change.

Seeking justice

The Federal Court ruling comes as a result of a court challenge on Widlene's behalf against the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

"We had felt that she had not received a fair shake from both tries of immigrating to Canada," said Earle.

"It seemed like there was some sort of bias against her file, so we thought, 'Let's take it to an impartial judge, and see what they say.'"

The legal action had its day in court in mid-January, and Federal Court Justice Robert L. Barnes issued his ruling Feb. 4. Earle said he couldn't be more pleased with the language chosen by the judge.

Barnes wrote, "The time has assuredly come for someone to take a holistic and full-fledged humanitarian and compassionate review focused on Widlene's circumstances and needs."

Barnes said the visa officer handling the case appeared to be "focusing on technicalities and documentary formalities," and not on what was best for Widlene.

The Earle family has a young son with whom Widlene has forged a strong bond, even though they live in different countries and can only occasionally see each other. (Submitted)

Needs ministerial approval

While the court ruling is encouraging, Earle said, he had hoped to hear by now from federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, who was appointed to the role after last fall's federal election.

There's been no word from the minister, but Earle is still optimistic, based on the Federal Court ruling, that good news is coming for his family.

"I feel like this gives him a roadmap and it gives him all the cover, ethically and otherwise, to just do the right thing and get Widlene to Canada," said Earle.

Under review

CBC asked Mendicino's department for an update on Widlene's case.

The Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada responded by email, saying, in part, "IRCC is aware of the court's decision and is currently reviewing it. We understand that cases like these are complex and challenging for the families and individuals involved."

The Earle family had a chance to spend Christmas with Widlene in the Dominican Republic. (Submitted )

Asked how Widlene is doing as she continues to live away from the people who've been her family since 2009, Earle said, "She's still waiting."

"We're all kind of waiting around. It's Christmas Eve. We're waiting for the gifts to come tomorrow morning. And, yet, still no visa."

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Bernice Hillier is a host of CBC Newfoundland Morning, which airs weekday mornings across western and central Newfoundland, as well as southern Labrador.