Adoption centre official warns of 'nightmare of bureaucracy' for overseas adoptions

OTTAWA — Doug Chalke, executive director at Sunrise Adoption Centre in Vancouver, says he used to tell clients it may take up to a year to adopt a child from a foreign country.

Nowadays, he is telling them it may be two to three.

"The whole world is shutting down to international adoption it seems, so things are getting overwhelmed around the world and things are getting slower," says Chalke.

Chalke says he sees at least three couples a week in his office, desperate to start the long process to adopt a child from a foreign, often poverty-stricken country.

"It's not an easy time for adoptive parents," he said.

And the process could face yet another hurdle.

Proposed changes to Canadian immigration legislation could add to the "nightmare of bureaucracy" for couples trying to adopt overseas.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations currently state that an adopted child can be denied entry to Canada if the parent-child relationship "is not genuine and was entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring any status or privilege under the act."

One of the legislative changes being looked at by the government is to change the 'and' to an 'or', making either of those criteria the basis for visa consideration instead of both.

More importantly for adoptive parents, 'is not genuine' would be changed to 'was not genuine'.

It may not look like a big deal, but experts say "it's huge".

The Canadian Bar Association has offered its opinion on the proposed changes to Citizen and Immigration Canada, and says it is worried.

"Right now, the current law is that you adopt a child and when you apply for immigration status one of the things an officer has to look at is, is this a genuine relationship...and the department is saying they need to make that decision before the adoption takes place, not after," explains Gordon Maynard, immigration lawyer and CBA spokesperson.

The association argues this is a "practical impossibility" because in the case of foreign adoption, the relationship is not created until after the adoption is completed.

"The whole process of adopting overseas has become a nightmare of bureaucracy," says Maynard.

He acknowledges the present guidelines are there to protect children and to ensure they are not put in harms way.

But Maynard warns this may go too far and cause more harm than good for the parents and child alike, causing delays for well-meaning couples and children in need of a loving home.

"Great intentions - lots of red tape," he said.

Karen Shadd, spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, says this proposal to the CBA was part of a consultation process and there are no solid plans yet to implement these changes.

"The CBA was provided with an opportunity for input as part of the consultation process and they have provided input and that was the intention of our communication with them," said Shadd.

Chalke says the process for his clients to adopt a child from overseas is so involved he cannot imagine they have anything but genuine intentions.

"I don't think there is probably one of those people who wouldn't be out there with the intent to establish a real parent-child relationship."

Chalke says he would be shocked if the government went ahead with such changes because it would stop the majority of foreign adoption in their tracks.

"If that's really what Immigration is saying, it's nonsensical."


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