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Ella, toddler from Sierra Leone, still can't join adoptive family in Montreal

11/06/2014 03:28 EST | Updated 01/06/2015 05:59 EST
A 17-month-old girl named Ella from Sierra Leone has been waiting a long time to go home to Montreal with her new adoptive father, Claude Perras.

And now she has to wait even more, thanks to delays on the Canadian government’s part in granting her a temporary residency visa.

Perras spoke to CBC Daybreak from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, where he is staying with his new daughter.

He described Ella as joyful, candid and caring. "She just wants to be cared for and loved," he said.

Sierra Leone is in a part of West Africa that has been particularly hard hit by Ebola — so hard the Canadian government suspended visas for that part of the world for the time being.

"I don’t know if the ban on visas has an impact on my situation," Perras said.

Perras officially became Ella’s father on July 2 and has been trying to bring her home since then.

Kevin Menard, a spokesman for Citizen and Immigration Canada, said the visa ban has nothing to do with Ella's case. An email statement said:

 "We have instituted a pause, but discretion remains to approve visas for essential travels. Our actions are considerably different than Australia. We are proactively contacting visa holders from the affected countries to validate their contact information and provide them with information on our measures on Ebola. The government of Canada’s decision represents the best option to balance the need to protect the health and safety of Canadians while causing minimal disruption to travel and trade - and in doing so, helping to prevent Ebola from coming to Canada.” 

— Kevin Menard, Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Immigration Canada slow to respond

After months of radio silence from Immigration Canada on applications to get Ella a travel visa or a temporary residency visa, as well as Canadian citizenship, Perras said the government finally emailed him yesterday regarding her citizenship — but nothing that can get her out of Sierra Leone faster.

He said he’s more concerned about the economic collapse Sierra Leone is experiencing as a byproduct of Ebola, than about the possibility of contracting Ebola, which he said was very difficult to catch.

On top of all the difficulties in getting Ella home, the company Perras worked for — London Mining — went bankrupt last week.

If the Canadian government does not move, Perras may take up Britain on its recent offer. The British government told Perras, who has a resident’s visa in the United Kingdom, that he could apply for a visitor’s visa for Ella.

Perras feels strung along by Immigration Canada. He’s changed one flight and may have to change another if they can’t fly out as scheduled on Nov. 16.

"I don’t know what to do, because my preference would be to go back to Montreal," he said, adding that his partner Johanne and their family are waiting back at home to welcome Ella.

"We’ve been preparing this for a long time, so we want to settle down and move on," he said.

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