Monday, November 23, 2009

Canadian bureaucrats strand B.C. parents in Nepal with adopted daughter

Dr. Salima Shariff, a Surrey cardiologist, feeds the baby that she and her husband, Aziz Nurmohamed, went to Nepal to adopt.

Photo -- Dr. Salima Shariff, a Surrey cardiologist, feeds the baby that she and her husband, Aziz Nurmohamed, went to Nepal to adopt.

A Surrey, B.C., cardiologist is stranded in Nepal with her newly adopted child while she waits anxiously for Canada to issue documents so she can bring her daughter home and return to her busy practice.

Dr. Salima Shariff appealed to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney for help this week, saying she is in a critically difficult situation, torn between her responsibilities as a new mother and a physician whose services are in great demand.

“I have a duty and obvious attachment as a new mother to my 14-month-old dependent adopted infant in Nepal and professional duties and responsibilities to my patients and colleagues as a cardiologist in Canada,” wrote Shariff, who has been in Nepal for the past two months.

"I am pleading with you to look into my case with compassion and understanding."

Shariff and her husband, Aziz Nurmohamed, left Canada on Sept. 17 after receiving word from a Victoria-based adoption agency that was guiding them through the process that the paperwork was all but complete and they should prepare to claim their new toddler.

Canada was in the final stages of issuing a permanent residency visa, Shariff was told. But shortly after she and her husband took custody of their little girl on Oct. 5 as legal parents, they got the bad news: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) had not yet recognized the Nepali adoption process.

They were stunned, as was the adoption agency that had helped them and Shariff’s colleagues at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

“She did everything by the book,” Dr. Sally Barrio said in an interview Thursday. “She followed the rules to the T, but she’s been caught in this bureaucratic thing.”

The most difficult part is that no one has told her what needs to be done to clear the way for their return to Canada, or how long it will take, Shariff says in the four-page letter.

Cheryl Fix, executive director for Choices Adoption and Counselling, said the adoption process was progressing smoothly for Shariff until this month. She said she doesn’t understand the delay in Canadian approval, especially given that the United States gave a green light to Nepali adoptions this fall.

“I would assume that the U.S. has equal due diligence. . . . If they’re satisfied, I’m a bit perplexed why we aren’t.”

Political instability has made Nepali adoptions high-risk, Fix acknowledged, and all adoptions were halted for some time because of concerns about child trafficking. But they reopened at the start of the year and Fix’s agency was one of two in Canada that were accredited.

The Vancouver Sun requested an interview with Kenney but was referred to the CIC office in Vancouver.

Shariff was profiled in a local newspaper a few years ago, which noted that she chose to work in Surrey after graduating with a cardiology fellowship at the University of B.C., despite being courted by the prestigious Mayo Clinic.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

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