It has been a little over a year since we launched the #bringwidlenehome campaign and over 9 years since we began the process to bring her to Canada. My live video updates on our journey have been extensive but I decided to release some written updates over the course of the next week to provide a more detailed rendition of some of the specific facets of this roller coaster ride.
This is Volume One - Widlene
A lump began to form in my throat as a single tear fought to gain its freedom and escape down the side of my face. I will never forget the the sound of the voice on the other end of the phone as long as I live. She did her best to retain some semblance of professionalism but her empathy boiled to the top as she utter the words, “The Minister has decided to reject your application.” As much as the horror of hearing those words still haunts me daily, it pales in comparison to the conversation that I knew would have to follow it.
Every single day after her tutoring session, Widlene would ask me if I had heard any news from Ottawa and every day, I would respond with cautious optimism and say, “any day now sweetie.” That response would not work today and I wasn’t sure what to do.
On this day, Nikki went to pick Widlene up from the tutor and I stayed home as I was engulfed in the barrage of calls from lawyers about the response that no one had anticipated. At 3:15 Widlene skipped through the front door and gave me a hug. “Hi Daddy,” she began. “How was your day?” I never even got the chance to respond. Widlene and I have always shared a special bond and I am still not sure if that is going to work in my favor once she enters her teen years. Since the age of 5, she has been always able to pick up emotions from the tiniest of my facial expressions. Without even asking the question, she sat back on the couch and let out a sigh of defeat. “Why did they say no?”
My heart began to sink in my chest as I started one of the worst conversations of my life.
I have to say, we have be somewhat fortunate on this campaign, much to the chagrin of the Trudeau government and Ahmed Hussen. This story has been told to millions of people and has gained a considerable amount of traction. I think back to when Avery Haines of CityNews did a primetime piece and blew this thing wide open, and the two weeks of press that followed. Or who can forget the drama of me travelling through the night on planes, trains and automobiles to meet Trudeau face to face in Hamilton?
Amidst all of the drama and theatrics, however, it can be easy to “miss the forest for the trees” and forget the most important part of this ever changing plot: Widlene.
Widlene Alexis Earle will turn thirteen in a couple short weeks. She has seen more atrocities in the first four years of her life than most of us will ever see with our own eyes. She has experienced loss and rejection on a level that I cannot ever personally comprehend.
In the country where she was born, she is not welcomed and is scared for her life. She has had police officers threaten to deport her unless she performed sexually at the age of eleven and hears lude remarks hurled at her on a near daily basis. She has been bullied at school for being the kid that no country wants. In the country of her ancestry, she has no future. They will not receive her because she wasn’t born there and she is one of 750,000 people that are “Haitian” stateless. And in Canada, she is just another number who has gotten buried under a pile of red tape and government hypocrisy.
Imagine having your citizenship robbed by a corrupt government and unjust law.
Then imagine having your ancestry denied by a different corrupt government riddled by extreme poverty.
Now imagine having your fate decided by an even more corrupt government who are more concerned with selfies than humans beings.
To Widlene, Canada is a fairy tale. It is a far away land that she has heard about for most of her life. It is a place where the leader promised to help her but had absolutely no intention of doing so. It is a place where that kind of behavior is tolerated, if not rewarded.
“Daddy, let’s just forget about Canada and find another country to go to.”
“Daddy, why don’t they want me in Canada?”
“Daddy, how come they are allowed to lie about helping us on TV and no one makes them do it?”
How is Widlene doing through all of this? How would you be doing?
I can say this. We, by some cosmic joke, find ourselves living in an era when everyone seems to find virtue in being offended. People run around looking for a way to be a victim so they can fit into their little victim tribe. When universities are designating “safe places” because someone had a differing idea, Widlene restores a little of my faith in humanity.
She is beaten but not defeated. Her skin is thick and her spirit strong. If Widlene Earle ever demands a safe space it will be from exploitation, deportation or gun fire, not because someone hurt her feelings.
Widlene will not ask for special treatment, but she will demand justice.