Haitian girl reunited with adoptive family in Canada after 10 years
Widlene Earle, now 14, is reunited with her adoptive family
It was a long time coming, with several bumps along the way, but an orphaned girl from Haiti has finally been allowed to move to Canada to live with her adoptive family.
Widlene Earle was just four years old when she was accepted into the family of Vaden Earle, who is originally from Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula but now lives in southern Ontario.
The girl was living with her grandmother in the Dominican Republic in 2009 when they met Vaden, who was doing humanitarian work in the country.
The grandmother gave permission for Vaden to adopt Widlene, but there were numerous delays and roadblocks along the way to making that happen, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which killed their adoption worker and destroyed documents that would have proven the girl's identity.
Vaden lobbied bureaucrats and politicians, and he launched a strong social media campaign to rally support for his cause that he dubbed "Bring Widlene Home."
Now, 14-year-old Widlene and her adoptive father can't believe their fight to have her come to Canada is really over.
"It has been a struggle," said Widlene, in an interview with CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning. "I thought I would always be stuck in the Dominican Republic."
Vaden, meanwhile, was still trying to process the joyous news.
"I get up in the morning, looking for a politician to harass or some fight to fight, and it's just done. We won, and it's started to sink in now."
Long road home
A federal court ruling earlier this year in favour of the Earle family seemed to provide a glimmer of hope that Widlene would be granted the Temporary Resident Permit she was seeking from the Canada's immigration, refugee and citizenship department.
But Vaden said the court ruling didn't change things immediately, as he had hoped.
Instead, he received new information from the department about an exemption for dependent children, which Vaden hadn't known about previously.
Vaden said when things started happening with the processing of Widlene's application for that exemption, they happened fast, describing it as a "roller coaster."
Running out of time
In the days leading up to Widlene's departure on March 27, Vaden said they were also concerned about the declining number of available flights to get from the Dominican Republic into Canada, as travel was becoming increasingly restricted due to COVID-19.
"We're going to get a visa, and then there's going to be no plane. That's kind of the way it looked like it was going to play out," he said.
Vaden credits Canadian embassy staff with processing the paperwork in time to get Widlene out of the Dominican Republic before flights ground to a halt.
"Until our feet touched down in Montreal and we cleared customs, it was still anxiety all the way until we knew she walking out of that airport into the freezing cold weather. Then the relief came," he said.
Settling into life as a family
Now, the reunited Earle family, including Vaden's partner, Nikki Korpan, and their infant son, Luther, have to adjust to life together under one roof in Canada.
They've all spent family time in the Dominican Republic, but life can now settle into a new normal.
"I feel really good and happy," said Widlene.
She said she plans to start a YouTube channel, explore Toronto, and attend school when it reopens after COVID-19.
She's also looking forward to being a full-time big sister.
"It feels good. I feel that my other part is close to me ... and that I will never be away from him," she said, referring to her brother Luther.