VANCOUVER — Five Canadian families have been granted visas to return home with their newly adopted babies, after being stuck in Japan for weeks due to a bureaucratic impasse.
Ryan Hoag of Coquitlam, B.C., says he received a notice from the Canadian embassy in Manila on Friday night confirming that his daughter's permanent residency has been approved.
Hoag immediately forwarded the message to his wife, Wiyani Prayetno, who has been staying in Japan with their daughter, who was born in April.
"It was kind of like the end of a battle and I was just so overwhelmed with actually seeing the finish line," he said. "She called me back and her first words were, 'when can we come home.'"
Hoag spoke from the Vancouver International Airport on Sunday, one hour before his flight was scheduled to depart for Japan. The couple originally arrived in Japan in early May to meet their daughter, but Hoag had to return to Canada after one month for work.
Lawyer Alex Stojicevic, who represents all of the families who travelled to Japan to pick up their newly adopted babies, said all of the families followed a process that has been in place for at least a decade, which includes getting a letter from the provincial government saying there are no objections to the adoption.
During the delay, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said in a statement that the federal government was seeking clarification from the Japanese government to ensure adoptions respect Japanese laws.
The statement said that while the matter is being investigated, the department could not "finalize the processing of cases where the adoption will be completed in Canada and where the transfer of custody is not confirmed by a court order."
Stojicevic said the delay appeared to be prompted by a change in American policy around adoptions from Japan, which had led to the Canadian government seeking an opinion from the Japanese Ministry of Justice.
Despite granting these families visas, he said it appears Canada is still waiting on that opinion, which creates some uncertainty for other Canadian families planning Japanese adoptions.
"The program is still under a question mark. Yes, they've approved these (visas), but it still looks like they're making inquiries as to what the Japanese government's position is and hopefully at some point they do clarify that there is no issue with the process that has been followed up until now for British Columbia and we go back to status quo," Stojicevic said.
"There are other families involved in this process who are in the pipeline as it were and have children identified, who do really want to get on with this."
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada could not immediately be reached for comment.
Amy Smart, The Canadian Press