A decades-long dream has finally come true for a 14-year-old stateless girl who had recently taken the Canadian government to court.
As Canadians around the world have been urged to return back home in the midst of COVID 19, Widlene Alexis Earle was also able to board a flight from the Dominican Republic with the rest of her Canadian family.
Video captured by her family shows the teenager hugging the ground of the airport after landing.
“It feels like I’m actually in a place that I’m supposed to be,” Widlene said.
Widlene was born in the Dominican Republic, but her Haitian mother died when Widlene was just an infant.
The Earle family adopted her when she was just four years old, and have been attempting to bring her back to Canada since then.
Neither of the two Caribbean countries would claim her, rendering her stateless.
Vaden Earle, her father, says despite the fact they were living a dangerous life in a country known for mass deportations, the Canadian government rejected Widlene on multiple occasions.
“I lost hope, then I had hope again, and then I lost hope again,” Widlene said. “It was up and down. But I always told myself, if I lose hope, then I wouldn’t be able to help anyone that is in my situation.”
Recently, a federal court judge ruled in favour of Widlene in a case that saw the Earle family taking on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Despite that win, the judgment didn’t provide the family with a timeframe of how long it would take for her visa application to be reviewed.
However, Earle said it wasn’t this win that got Widlene to Canada, but rather the COVID 19 travel measures the government implemented this month.
“Somebody in Canadian Border Services, they had an exemption that was [for] dependent children,” Vaden said. “This is the one happy story from the COVID outbreak I guess. We were certainly going to get a visa with that federal court ruling, there was no way they could say no but they could have dragged that on.”
With the help of a team from Ottawa, Vaden says they were able to get Widlene in through that CBSA exemption, but later received a call from IRCC about a visa.
For now, Widlene is in Canada on a temporary resident permit, but the Earle family is hoping to apply for full citizenship down the line.
Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, said on Monday he is pleased the review of the case has been completed.
“I am pleased that the department has completed its review of this matter and issued a travel permit in accordance with due process and guided by the Court’s decision,” he said. “Hopefully, the conclusion of this process will allow Wildlene to begin the next chapter of her life in Canada, along with her family. We wish them well.”
The minister added the family must now self-isolate for 14 days, in accordance with the new travel rules.
Over the past ten years, Vaden shared their story with anyone who would listen. He would often fly to Canada to confront some of the country’s most powerful leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several immigration officials.
“If the Canadian government is thinking ‘wow we finally got rid of this crazy Earle family that’s putting pressure on us,’ boy are they mistaken,” said Vaden. “[There are] so many kids that are in the situation that Widlene was in without a voice, and we’re about to give them a voice.”
Speaking out for others has been the force behind Widlene’s dream to end statelessness.
“It’s important because others are going to get heard, they’re going to be free and they’re going to be safe,” Widlene said.
Her arrival also comes at an unprecedented time, where many are indoors and self-isolating, including Widlene and the Earle family who will be staying home for at least the next two weeks.
When she landed in Canada, Widlene wasn’t even able to hug her grandparents or her mother, who had been living in the country.