Nenita Yap lost her mother, her sister and eight nieces and nephews when the largest typhoon ever recorded devastated the Philippines last November. The typhoon left more than 6,000 people dead and millions more displaced.
Yap, who works as a nanny for a family in Surrey, is now trying to bring her daughter Samantha and her niece Maeve, who was orphaned by the storm, to Canada so she can care for them.
"Maeve is alone in terms of her family. It hurts me that she knows we will take care of her, but that is really difficult if you don't have your own mom or your own family," said Yap.
"I want her to be with me and Sam, because I will be like her new mom."
Yap visited the Philippines shortly after the storm hit. She said she barely recognized her hometown and is concerned for the girls' health.
"If we're going to just let them stay there, food and water and shelter will be a very big problem," said Yap.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced in mid-November it would prioritize "the processing of applications already in progress on request from Filipinos who are significantly and personally affected by Typhoon Haiyan." The department said it would also extend the stay of Filipinos temporarily living in Canada.
Yap came to Canada as a temporary foreign worker
The problem, however, is that Yap came to Canada under the Temporary Foreign Workers program. The government has only opened its doors to relatives of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Although Yap has applied for permanent residency, her paperwork has yet to be approved.
"Only citizens and permanent residents of Canada are eligible to sponsor family members to come to Canada. Temporary Foreign Workers, such as nannies in Canada under the Live-in Caregiver program, are not eligible to do so," said a Citizenship and Immigration spokesperson in a statement Tuesday.
The spokesperson reiterated the federal government's commitment to helping those affected by the storm.
Immigration lawyer Catherine Sas is offering Yap her services for free and is hoping the government will show similar benevolence by allowing Yap to bring her daughter and niece to Canada as visitors.
"Her daughter, we have a very compelling case for. Her niece is also a very compelling case, given that she's now an orphan. It's really a matter of whether or not immigration will permit that given that the adoption has not been finalized," said Sas, adding that Yap has already filed an application to adopt Maeve.
"I think she will be a test case for many. She's got a very, very compelling case and we will see how quickly the government responds. But they appear to be committed to help."
The adoption could take up to six months, but a decision on whether the girls can come to Canada could be made within weeks.