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MP advocates for action on African adoptions

St. Albert-Edmonton MP Michael Cooper is trying to pressure Prime Minister Justin Trudeau into making a call.

St. Albert-Edmonton MP Michael Cooper is trying to pressure Prime Minister Justin Trudeau into making a call.

Cooper wants Trudeau to call Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and ask for 16 exit visas for the children that have been legally adopted by Canadian families.

The DRC government suspended inter-country adoptions in September 2013, stranding hundreds of children who had already been adopted by parents from other countries in the African nation for years.

One of the families waiting for reunification includes a constituent of Cooper’s, prompting his recent calls in the House of Commons for the prime minister to take action. The constituent declined to be interviewed at this time.

“The problem is the government of Congo has refused to issue exit visas, not withstanding the fact that all of these families have been recognized by the Congolese courts as the duly adoptive parents of these children,” Cooper said.

He said he knows Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion has been in touch with his Congolese counterpart, but with limited success.

“I can say that unfortunately the foreign affairs minister’s requests have not resulted in success with these 16 children, so that’s why I’m asking that it be taken to the next level,” Cooper said, adding that the next level is for the Canadian prime minister to put on the pressure himself.

“There is some urgency in as much as there is legislation before the Democratic Republic of Congo’s parliament that could force these families to potentially wait years more,” Cooper said.

Cooper has been in touch with Senator Mobina Jaffer, who has been working with a number of Canadian families impacted by the DRC’s government’s actions. He said the families have endured a great emotional and financial toll over the years, as many of the families continue to pay to support their children while waiting to be reunited.

Faith St-John, a spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, stated in an email there are 13 Canadian families waiting to be united with 16 children.

“Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is working hard to try to resolve these adoption cases while recognizing the decision of the DRC to suspend its inter-country adoption program,” St-John wrote.

The government of Canada continues to monitor the issue and collaborates with other countries that have been impacted by the suspension, St-John said. Work continues to try and balance the needs of the families while respecting the DRC’s decision.

“Despite frequent diplomatic undertakings by several countries affected by the suspension, there has been little movement on the exit permit issue except for a few children who have been granted exemptions due to severe medical conditions or humanitarian considerations. Canada has not been advised by the DRC authorities of the rationale behind these exceptions,” St-John said, adding later that the families’ frustration is understood and encouraging them to contact their adoption agency for updates as available.