It was a homecoming some B.C. families in the process of adopting babies from Japan feared may not happen anytime soon.
On Monday morning, more families who had been stuck in legal limbo in Japan, walked through the gates of Vancouver International Airport, meeting their friends and family in the arrivals area.
WATCH: Japanese baby adoptions arrive home
“Just so much relief and so much gratitude and just so happy to be back after this really long journey… we are just so thankful that everyone came through in the end and we’re so thankful for everyone’s hard work and telling our story and sharing it because I really think that made a difference and helped us get home,” Lee Fodi told Global News shortly after he, his wife and their newly adopted baby named Hiro arrived in Vancouver.
Five B.C. families, including the Fodis, who had approval from the province to adopt in Japan were on hold as the Canadian government refused to issue their newly adoption children visas.
WATCH: Japan adoption family is finally home
The problem, it seems, was confusion over the U.S. government recently being informed that under Japanese law, Japan’s courts have to authorize inter-country adoptions.
The families worked together to get legal opinions from Canadian and Japanese lawyers as well as letters from officials in both countries which made it clear the new regulations don’t affect Canadians.
For weeks, the families received no response on why the visa issuance was being delayed. In that time, they garnered support from politicians, the community and even a class of Grade 1 students who wrote letters to the feds, urging them to issue visas to the five babies.
WATCH: Japan adoption issues
Fodi is convinced,that effort, with kids helping kids, is what made all the difference.
“I think it was all our community, all our friends and family advocating for us, a fantastic group of Grade 1s writing letters and that kind of thing melted my heart and I think.. when you’ve got a classroom of six-year-olds on your side… world look out,” Fodi said.
They received an email Saturday night, Tokyo time, informing them the visas were going to be issued, he said.
He said the Canadian embassy in Tokyo was opened over the weekend so they could get there, print paperwork and get everything sorted so they could fly back to Canada as soon as possible.
“We trekked through a rainstorm on Saturday to get to the Tokyo embassy but that’s okay, I would have trekked through a hurricane,” Fodi said.
“We have no idea what’s happening behind the scenes but we know we got our visas so we whipped into action,” he added.
WATCH: Adoptive parents in Japan still waiting for answers
Hiro’s grandparents were among the welcoming party waiting to greet the Fodis at YVR.
“I’m vibrating. I’m vibrating, I’m so excited. I’ve been waiting so long to meet my grandson,” Peggy Fodi said as she waited anxiously at the airport.
“It’s just heartbreaking to watch them struggle so hard to get themselves home and to get our grandson home,” she said.
Friends of the Fodis also gathered in the arrivals area of the airport holding flowers, balloons and gifts for the three-and-a-half-month-old, who is the oldest of all five babies.
“The car seat has been ready and waiting, we set it all up for him but we actually had to adjust the size, take out the newborn insert because now he’s too big,” Heather Fitzgerald said. “We thought we’d be using it more than a month ago.”
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said these adoptions were done “in a manner consistent with how adoptions have been finalized in the past in Japan, and consistent with our understand to date of Japanese law.”
WATCH: B.C. families caught up in adoption red tape in Japan
But, IRCC said this doesn’t mean a green light for all families hoping to adopt from Japan, at least not yet.
“We are aware there are questions around the process of adoption that have been raised with other countries, and these questions warrant clarification. To that end, we have halted the immigration processing on any cases that are not already near completion and have asked the Japanese government to clarify their expectations on the adoption process going forward,” IRCC said in an email statement.
Although IRCC did not provide a timeline, it confirmed “Canadian officials have been in regular contact with their Japanese counterparts, and will continue to keep them informed of these developments. We are continuing to seek clarification for future possible adoptions as this would allow us to ensure that an acceptable approach is put in place.”
“I hope this program goes ahead… what I’m really concerned about is babies that don’t have homes and we know from having been to Japan and travelled around the world a little bit, we know there’s lots of kids who need homes,” Fodi said.
~ With files from Tanya Beja and Grace Ke