Citizenship issue leaves Okotoks family stranded in India post-adoption
The Walker family from Okotoks is now a family of five following the adoption of a two-year-old girl from India but delays in their dealings with Canadian Immigration postponed her arrival on Canadian soil and extended the family’s time in Asia.
The family had been looking to adopt for nearly three years and, in the summer of 2016, they fell for a little girl from Bhopal, India.
“We found out about Opal in August of last year and have been doing the paper chase for her until now,” said Georgina Walker from a hotel room in New Delhi, India. “We applied for citizenship in January.”
Walker says Indian officials did not object to the adoption application but the family’s dealings with Canadian Immigration were frustrating from the get-go. After seeking an update from Canadian Immigration on Opal’s citizenship application, officials told the family there had been an error.
“They said ‘Yeah, sorry. We made a mistake. We need to send it to Delhi,” said Walker. “We lost almost a month because they had mixed it up.”
The family was granted full legal custody of Opal this summer but the young girl’s Canadian citizenship had yet-to-be approved.
The orphanage where Opal had resided has a policy requiring families to pick up their child within 60 days of adoption. The Walkers say Immigration Canada’s error caused them to miss the orphanage’s deadline and the family flew to India to unite with Opal. “We kind of thought by the time we get there immigration will have had our stuff for a month which is ample time for them to help us out.”
Robert and Georgina Walker, along with their nine-year-old and three-year-old daughters, travelled to Asia to retrieve Opal. The family of five has lived out of a hotel as they await word on Opal’s Canadian citizenship from Canadian Immigration.
“They told us you can’t phone us, there’s nobody to talk to,” said Georgina Walker. “You can’t go to the embassy, there’s nobody to see. There’s nothing you can do but sit and wait.”
The family learned of others who had faced a similar predicament. “One family got through in ten days, another got through in a month, another, just over month,” said Walker. “There’s no consistency.”
“When we’re told come and get your child, you don’t have a choice. I’m riding on the hope that someone’s going to realize the urgency of that.”
Uncertain of how long their time in India would last, the family was told they would lose their hotel room as of Thursday as the property would soon be fully booked ahead of an upcoming holiday.
“We need to find somewhere else to stay because they are booked and nobody is answering me,” said Walker. “We are literally stranded in Delhi with no answer.”
“Resources are running out. It’s not cheap staying in a hotel and feeding people.”
Robert Walker and the family’s three-year-old daughter Pearl returned to Canada on Tuesday, October 10 but Georgina, Opal and nine-year-old Ruby remained in India.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, the Walkers received word that Opal had been granted Canadian citizenship and they can apply for a Visa for the two-year-old. Georgina Walker says she has secured a hotel room near the airport for the coming days and hopes, should the Visa be issued in a prompt manner, to fly home to Canada with her daughters this weekend.
With files from CTV's Alesia Fieldberg