Five B.C. families in the process of adopting children from Japan have been forced to stay in Tokyo because the Canadian government is reviewing its policies. The B.C. government has temporarily suspended adoptions from Japan amid uncertainty over a recent directive from Japan to the United States on international adoptions.
To date, Canadians haven’t required that authorization to adopt children from Japan. But Canadian officials have told adoptive parents they need clarification from the Japanese government to make sure that no one is breaking the law. Until that clarification arrives, Canada will not issue visas for babies adopted in Japan
“Some of the families have already been there for over eight weeks. You’re only allowed to be in Japan on a visa for 12week,” said Alex Stojicevic, the Vancouver-based Immigration lawyer who is representing the five families who are now in Japan.
The families have not been able to confirm which Japanese authority informed the U.S. about the need to have court approval for intercountry adoptions, Alex said.
“All of the Japanese government officials we’ve spoken with are surprised that the children are still in Japan. They don’t know where this is coming from,” he said.
The reason for the delay, Ottawa says, is an update on the U.S. State Department’s website on May 15 that says the Japanese government recently informed the U.S. that all inter-country adoptions must be authorized by Japanese courts under Japanese law. Ottawa asked Japan on June 7 whether that rule applies to Canadians.
The federal Immigration Department confirmed that seeking Japanese court approval has not been part of the process for Canadian families. The Immigration Department said the adoption processes cannot be completed until the issue is clarified with Japanese authorities.
“The procedure that the affected parents were following has been in place for at least a decade,” said Vancouver lawyer Alex Stojicevic. “Those families have been unfairly caught up in procedural uncertainty,” he said.
“The Japanese government has not contacted Canada – if they had an issue with these five adoptions, why have they not contacted Canada directly?” Alex said.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) spokesperson Nancy Caron said the Canadian government is treating this issue as a priority.
The effected families are hoping the Japanese Justice Ministry will clarify the situation soon, and they’ll be able to bring their children home.