A Winnipeg couple who have adopted two orphans from Uganda say they have been apart for two years and may have to look elsewhere to live if Canada won’t let them come together as a family.
When Lindsay and Zaid Aboud flew to Africa in 2016, it was to start a charity, not a family. But during their time in the country, they met two children at an orphanage: one-year-old Abel and two-year-old Malaika. Abel was sick and Malaika was born without hands, which left them unlikely to ever be selected for adoption.
“Malaika is seen as a curse because she doesn’t have hands and we were literally told if she was brought back to her community she would be killed. She had no other option. And our son was left on a bus by his mother,” Lindsay told Global News via Skype.
The Abouds knew they could give the little ones a better chance at life, at home in Winnipeg, but they had no idea what trials would lie ahead.
The couple says they adopted the two officially in May of 2018, but the process to bring them home to Canada has been filled with red tape, misinformation and frustration.
“I don’t think there’s a single aspect of my life right now — physical, mental, emotional, my relationship with my friends and colleagues — that hasn’t been severely impacted by this. I almost feel like I’m in prison,” Zaid said.
In January 2017 Zaid moved back to Winnipeg while Lindsay stayed with the children in Uganda. The plan was for her to stay until July 2018 when they thought they would be able to return to Canada together.
The couple says they applied for citizenship for the children, and applied for visitor’s visas while citizenship was processed, but the visas were denied in August. Now they don’t know if, or when, they can all be together in Canada.
“There is no light at the end of the tunnel,” Zaid said. “I don’t even know if I’m in the tunnel.”
“It’s so much emotional stress to take on,” Lindsay said. “I broke down. That was a time where I hit a very very low point. I didn’t even think that would happen I didn’t think it was possible.”
Most of the work to bring international adoptions to Manitoba is done by the federal government, but the process is in-depth, says the Manitoba government.
“Inter-country adoptions are complex, with many checks and balances in place to protect the rights of children and to ensure they can keep links to their culture, community and parentage,” said a spokesperson for Manitoba Families.
The emotional toll of being separated has been one of the most challenging, says Lindsay.
“I can’t be away from Zaid. He’s literally watched his kids grow up on a screen for the last two years.”
The family has said they’re going to wait until Christmas to see if they will at least be able to get visitor visas to all be in Winnipeg together. But if that doesn’t happen, they’re considering other countries to call home.
“As crazy as it sounds, we’ve started to look to other countries to go to. That’s insane,” Zaid said. “Other countries like England or Australia or France — that we’re looking to go there instead of coming home.”