In recent blog posts, I’ve been documenting the bureaucratic nightmare that ensnared my family as we tried to get home to Canada from Japan.
Trapped in limbo by our own government
Marcie I are one of five Canadian families who are in the process of adopting children from Japan but because the Canadian Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) wouldn’t issue us visas, we became trapped in Tokyo, without a way to get home—unless we abandoned our babies.
After weeks of uncertainty, and being given no clarity or timeline by our own government, we felt like we had been painted into a corner, left with no choice but to tell our story publicly.
Launching a media campaign to save our kids
After five days of intense media, doing interviews with all the major Canadian news outlets, writing blog posts, sharing stories on twitter and facebook, and campaigning for fellow citizens to write to the IRCC, we finally were able to convince the government to take action and bring us home.
It happened on a Saturday—much to our surprise, because this is not a day that the embassies or any government departments are open. But there we were, feeling at one of our lowest moments, when the email from the embassy in Manila, Philippines, came in with our visas (immigration from Japan is handled by the Manila office). Manila coordinated with the local embassy in Tokyo, had them open especially for us, and we charged out into monsoon-like weather to get our paperwork finalized. (I would have trekked through blizzard or hurricane; the weather just seemed to add to the drama).
After receiving our paperwork, we booked the first available flight home—for us, that was Monday, June 25th, nine full weeks after we had first arrived in Japan to receive custody of our son.
Our story ends happily
We arrived home to be greeted at the Vancouver International airport by friends, family, and TV cameras. It was all a little overwhelming but, despite being jetlagged and emotionally exhausted from our ordeal, we were happy to do some last interviews. After all, it was the medai campaign that helped us get home.
Here’s some photos taken by our friend Carrie Bercic of our arrival:
A big thank you
I really want to thank our friends, family, colleagues, and fellow Canadian citizens who stepped up to help us campaign for a resolution to our case.
The reporters and interviewers who covered our story were sensitive, kind, and squarely on our side.
The Canadian kid-lit community was amazing, with children’s authors coast to coast writing letters on our behalf. I’m so humbled that everyone took the time to help out my family.
The kids who championed kids
One group I especially want to draw attention to is the kids. There were many children who clambered to our cause and wrote letters to the government to help Marcie, Hiro, and I get home.
As a children’s author, I visit a lot of schools and am in contact with a lot of passionate readers. I’m always so humbled when my characters and stories connect with readers—but I never dreamed that these readers would play such an important role in my personal life.
There is a class of grade-one students at Mulgrave School who are enormous fans of my Kendra Kandlestar series. I visited their class earlier this year and got to witness their passion first-hand. At that time, they asked me if I could come back to see their assembly at the end of April—they were putting on a play of Kendra Kandlestar. At that time, I asked their teacher, the amazing Elizabeth Kok, to email me a reminder.
Alas, when I received her email, Marcie and I were already in Japan with Hiro. I explained the reason, and so I had to settle on some photos and video footage of the play. Here’s a photo of the kids in action (check out those costumes!):
Fast-forward a few weeks. Elizabeth caught wind of our predicament via twitter and immediately launched into action, leading a project in which her class of six- and seven-year-old students wrote letters to the Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, and telling him to bring us home.
Global News did a story on their letter-writing campaign, which you can view here.
Here are some still frames from the segment, showing their wonderful letters:
There were other kids who joined the cause, too. Here’s an illustrated letter written by Joanne, one of the students enrolled in my creative writing classes, to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
So many people supported us but, if you ask me, it was these letters by kids, in support of the five babies put in jeopardy by the Canadian government, that put us over the top. After all, no one wants to be seen being chastized by six-year-olds.
But whether you are six or sixty, there is zero doubt in mind: your support got us home. If it hadn’t been for people rallying to our cause, writing letters, expressing outrage on social media, we’d still be stuck in an endless cycle of bureaucracy. The support of our fellow citizens got us home. For that, Marcie, Hiro, and I are forever grateful.