Russell Wangersky: Sea change
We know the effects and impacts of the ocean here. We know its role in heating and cooling — look no further than the seven or eight degree (if you’re lucky) difference between days with onshore winds and no wind.
Newfoundland native Vaden Earle and his wife were first introduced to Widlene in a garbage dump in Dominican Republic where dozens of Haitians were searching for food and recyclables. Two years later, her mother had died and her grandmother could not afford to feed her. With a bleak future, Widlene was sent to Haiti where thousands of orphans are sold as household servants every year.
In 2009, the Earles took guardianship of Widlene and over the past eight years have spent over $200,000 in their attempt to adopt and bring the young girl to Canada. Now stateless and lacking even basic human rights protections, 11-year-old Widlene is running out of time. Her security and future are slowly slipping away.
Having barely escaped being sold into slavery in Haiti so many years ago, Widlene once again finds herself in danger.
The Earles went through the official adoption process the year they took guardianship of Widlene with the hope of bringing her to Canada within a year. Unfortunately, relevant documents were lost during the disastrous Haitian earthquake and the adoption has spiralled downhill since.
Having barely escaped being sold into slavery in Haiti so many years ago, Widlene once again finds herself in danger. Still residing with his daughter in the Dominican Republic, Vaden has started the #BringWidleneHome campaign. He hopes to share this story with the public and to exert pressure on the Canadian Government to intervene on Widlene’s behalf. He is encouraging Canadians to contact their MP, share the hashtag on social media, and to sign the online petition.
Widlene’s parents are exceptional Canadian humanitarians. I had the privilege of meeting this young girl while volunteering in the Dominican Republic over four years ago. I am shocked that her case remains unresolved today. As a student of international relations with knowledge of issues such as human trafficking in the Caribbean, I understand the dangers of statelessness. According to the United Nations, stateless people are often unable to attend school or to see a doctor. Vaden has already had to hide Widlene from the Dominican police, who often prey on vulnerable young girls.
In recent months, our province has been beaming with pride as a Broadway musical showcases our hospitality, kindness and willingness to accept people from all over the world during their time of need. The case of Widlene Earle reminds us that during a turbulent time in global affairs, we must not forget our country’s leadership role in protecting human rights. It is time for the federal government to issue Widlene a Temporary Residents Permit based on the fact that she is an at-risk stateless minor in the full-time care of Canadian citizens.
I never fail to be amazed by the compassion of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and I hope that the people of the province will support the #BringWidleneHome campaign. As we fondly remember our open arms when thousands of passengers were stranded in 2001, let us not forget that there are so many more vulnerable people waiting to “come from away.”
Redknee Loran Scholar
Trinity College, University of Toronto
Originally from St. John’s