Allow Baby Zoe into Canada with her Calgary Parents NOW!

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Canadian couple Derek and Emilie Muth have been stranded abroad for almost a year. Ottawa refuses to allow entry to their legally adopted 2.5-year-old daughter Zoe, who faces complications from her Sickle Cell Anemia that have been life threatening. This crisis – which has taken a huge emotional and financial toll – resulted from an administrative failure by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to finalize Zoe’s Canadian citizenship in a timely manner. It takes only a few hours to complete Part 2 of the Citizenship process (a simple matter of confirming documents), but it has taken IRCC over 10 months, with no end in sight.

The couple is asking that IRCC Minister Marco Mendicino direct his staff to immediately finalize Zoe’s citizenship so the whole family can come home and end their international exile. All the necessary documents and paperwork have been sitting before the ministry for almost a year. After 10 months of waiting and suffering, it is not too much to ask that the government do the right thing.

Derek and Emilie write:

“Due to administrative delays, and a failure to properly triage and prioritize Zoe’s application, the IRCC is effectively exiling our family outside Canada during a time of global crisis. They are forcing us to rely on the hospitality of foreign nations to provide refuge, and ignoring our many pleas for urgent assistance. It is, very simply, in the best interest of Zoe to be granted travelling papers to Canada as soon as possible. The Canadian government is failing to uphold it’s international obligations to protect the best interests of our child. We need your help to get us back to Canada.”

The Muths left their home in Calgary for Lagos, Nigeria in October 2019 to adopt their now 2.5-year-old daughter, Zoe Muth. Zoe’s adoption was legally finalized in court on October 28th, 2019, officially making them a family of 3! They have followed all provincial, federal and international laws required for this adoption. However, due to administrative failures on the part of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), they are still stranded abroad indefinitely.

(See some media coverage of the case at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/muth-family-adoption-abroad-nigeria-1.5732121 and also at Emilie’s blog: https://emiliemuth.wordpress.com/)

BACKGROUND

The Muths filed for Zoe’s Canadian Citizenship (Application for Canadian Citizenship of an Adopted Child Part 2, aka “Part 2”) in November 2019. Once approved, Zoe would be granted Canadian citizenship and be able to travel to Canada. The application was sent to the IRCC field office in Accra, Ghana last November. According to a September, 2020 Access To Information and Privacy (ATIP) request, it appears Zoe’s file has not even been opened.

The IRCC has ignored their pleas for assistance. There have been no substantive updates from the IRCC, despite numerous requests for assistance. In addition to their attempts at communication, letters requesting urgent processing sent by MPs, physicians in Canada & Barbados, and Alberta Children’s Services/International Adoption Services Ottawa have also been unsuccessful.

WE CANNOT “REST ASSURED”

The recent reply from the Minister’s Office says for the family to “rest assured” because they’re “in the queue,” but the IRCC cannot provide estimated processing times due to staffing shortages caused by the Accra office’s COVID-19 repatriations.

Derek and Emilie write: “Let’s be clear: this delay is due to Canada alone; it is not a foreign or legal issue. The IRCC had failed to properly triage our application prior to the evacuation of their field office, and have failed to consider intervention requests, even by their own head office. We cannot ‘rest assured’ and continue to wait indefinitely.

Even though the Accra office has operating challenges, the Canadian Citizenship Program Manual clearly states that the file could be completed right in Canada. In fact, we submitted all of our documentation electronically months ago, so this step could be completed in Montreal, QC or Sydney, NS. However, the IRCC has refused to prioritize the case by transferring the file.”

ZOE’S HEALTH IS ENDANGERED

To compound damaging delays, Zoe’s Sickle Cell Anemia has been a major concern throughout the past year. After a life threatening hospitalization in Nigeria, the family chose to relocate to Barbados (one of the few places a Nigerian can travel visa-free) in search of a medical system better suited to meet Zoe’s needs. While care in Barbados has been better, the pandemic has led to other concerns for safety, including only intermittent pharmaceutical supplies. While Zoe’s health has recently stabilized, the nature of this disease means her health status has the potential to turn catastrophic in a matter of hours. Zoe is also considered high risk and vulnerable to COVID-19 complications. Zoe needs the safety and comprehensive medical care provided by the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

As Emilie and Derek point out, “It is, very simply, in the best interest of Zoe to be allowed into Canada as soon as possible. The Canadian government is failing to uphold its international obligations to protect the best interests of our legally adopted, dependent child.

In addition to Zoe’s health considerations, every day we are stranded abroad in limbo, unable to come home to Canada, it costs us undue financial and emotional stress. Through its own bureaucratic failures, the IRCC is effectively exiling our family outside Canada during a time of global crisis, forcing us to rely on the hospitality of foreign nations to provide refuge while ignoring our many pleas for assistance.”

Time is running out. The Muths’ visa in Barbados expires shortly, and there is no guarantee it will be renewed. If they are not able to return to Canada with their dependent, legally adopted daughter, they do not know where they will go.

The solution is very simple: Zoe’s citizenship needs to be processed NOW!

The only action required by the IRCC to approve Zoe’s travel is a review of Part Two, which can be completed in as little as a few hours in Quebec or Nova Scotia. It ultimately consists of a basic administrative task: to confirm the documentation the Muths submitted (from the Alberta Government, Lagos Family Court, Lagos Ministry of Youth and Social Development, and Nigerian Federal Government) is legitimate and not forged.

The Muths are begging the government, “Please immediately prioritize and finalize Zoe’s citizenship so we can come home as a family.”