NEWS

Claude Perras still waiting for visa for adopted Ella in Sierra Leone

12/09/2014 08:53 EST | Updated 02/08/2015 05:59 EST
Claude Perras went to Sierra Leone on Oct. 26 to pick up his 18-month-old adoptive daughter, Ella, to bring her home to his Montreal-area home.

A month and a half later, he's still in Freetown waiting for her visa.​

Perras has been repeatedly told that the Canadian government has not banned visas for Ebola-stricken countries.

Sonia Lesage of Citizenship and Immigration Canada said the government is evaluating applications on a case-by-case basis. She also explained that the government has to evaluate whether an adoption is in the best interest of the child.

Perras said he jumped through all the hoops necessary to bring Ella home. 

“I don’t know what else Citizenship and Immigration Canada wants," he said on the phone from Freetown.

Neither do his friends and family. They're travelling to Ottawa on Tuesday to ask for a meeting with Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

"Really what we are questioning is the process. They are not reasonable given the circumstances. It’s very dangerous for Claude and Ella. The minister has the discretionary power to intervene and we hope he will do so," said Robert Letendre, a family friend heading to Ottawa.

Adoption process began in June 2013

Perras first laid eyes on Ella more than a year ago, shortly after she was born to a 13-year-old Sierra Leonean girl.

He was in the country for business at the time, as an employee of London Mining.

Ella's birth mother was unable to feed her, so the infant was fed hot water for her first three weeks, Perras told CBC Daybreak on Tuesday.

He began the adoption process in June 2013, and on July 2, 2014, her adoption was granted by Sierra Leonean authorities. It was subsequently approved by Canadian authorities, Perras said.

He applied for a visa for Ella after Sierra Leona approved the adoption and, despite not receiving a visa for the girl by the time he planned to leave his Longueuil, Que., home for Freetown, he travelled to the Ebola-stricken country anyway.

However, the company he worked for went bankrupt right as Perras travelled to Sierra Leone to pick Ella up and bring her home.

Perras told Daybreak that company owed millions of dollars to local partners, and that he feared he'd become a target for people looking to collect.

MPs show support

He said he is taking every precaution in Freetown to avoid Ebola infection, and told Daybreak he even volunteered for a 21-day quarantine upon return to Canada to ensure he is not infected.

Perras's cause has garnered interest with several Quebec MPs, including Liberal Marc Garneau, as well as Pierre Nantel and Guy Caron of the NDP.

Nantel, the NDP MP for Longueuil-Pierre-Boucher, said it's about time Perras was allowed to come home with Ella.

"The whole adoption process was cleared, was recognized and they need to make verification. I understand, it's very important. But the reality is that time is a factor here," Nantel said. "It's a factor because we have a Canadian dad who's out there and waiting to come back with his adopted daughter and we just asked for speeding up — as effective as possible — the process."

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