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Letter: Family torn apart — a Canadian story of injustice


When I left central Newfoundland and started my career on the Great Northern Peninsula in the early 1970s, I had the privilege of boarding with two of the greatest people I have ever known. Donna and Garth Earle were a rock, and a surrogate family to a young, lonely kid far from home.

After marriage, my wife and I worked on the Northern Peninsula, and a wonderful, long-term friendship developed between us. These are, beautiful, caring people, examples of the loving, generous nature of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

While we were there, their only child, Vaden, was born. They poured their love and energy into that boy, and he went on to become a humanitarian who not only changed countless lives in small and big ways, but brought other Canadians to impoverished regions of the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Asia to experience first hand the squalid conditions in which the Third World lives.

Time passes; we are all getting older. Donna and Garth have an average age of approximately 80. They have both had to travel, several times, to St. John’s from the tip of the Northern Peninsula for medical care. Their only son is essentially banished from his own country, and must watch his parents age from a distance.

Canada has refused to allow his adopted daughter to enter the country! The “true north, strong and free” is forcing him to choose either his daughter or his aging parents. This is a choice that no one should ever have to make — certainly not Canadians.

This is a blight on the idea of what this great country of liberty and goodness represents. No Canadian should ever have to fight for years to get home. There should be a great welcome beckoning home champions who have gone abroad and tried to make the world a better place.

In December 2015, my prime minister gave out winter parkas to refugees, who were arriving by the planeload. A caption read “Trudeau welcomes Syrian refugees with hugs and warm clothes.” I was moved, and thought, here’s someone who has a caring heart!

I wrote a letter support the Earles’ cause. I got a reply back that the prime minister “cannot get personally involved in cases.” It sure looked personal when he hugged the little refugee girl at the airport. I was disgruntled with the response, and wondered if this prime minister is the champion of the downtrodden only if it offers a great photo-op.

We all know that hugs are wonderful, comforting acts; Donna needs to hug, and to be hugged, by her granddaughter, Widlene.

In response to a refugee’s thanks at the airport, Trudeau replied, “You are home. Welcome home.” The irony was not lost on me. I want to hear him say that to Widlene Earle.

MP Seamus O’Regan, I had high hopes for you. You’ve had your challenges, but you persevered. You have shown some fortitude and strength of character.

But if, as Vaden Earle reported, you had his correspondence brushed off by an assistant to an assistant, then shame on you. Shame on you for not lending your support to this cause.

Shame on the prime minister for not at least saying, “I’ll make sure we review this case and make sure we do the right thing in this matter.”

Shame on us all — on the whole country — for leaving one of our own to languish in exile because he chose to act against misery and injustice. Who could have dreamed of the injustice to which this family would be subjected, just for having a heart of compassion. How does the rescue of a child from a life of misery, starvation and abuse result in such misery for this family?

We need to start holding our politicians to account for their action and inaction. And politicians need to be aware that in the modern day of social media, everything is transparent.

I wrote this on Father’s Day, thinking of my friend, who can only long for the return of his son to his country of birth, and for the joy of interacting with his grandchild.

 

Ronald Sheppard
St. John’s
www.bringwidlenehome.com

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