Ryan Hoag, his wife, Wiyani Prayetno, and their infant daughter in Tokyo. (Ryan Hoag handout/The Canadian Press)

Five B.C. families stuck in Japan as Canada refuses visas for adopted babies

Lawyer points to change in American policy around adoptions from Japan

Ryan Hoag spent his first Father’s Day separated from his wife and baby daughter by more than 7,500 kilometres and reams of red tape.

Hoag’s family is stuck in Toyko unable to return to their home in Coquitlam because the federal government won’t issue a visa for the newly adopted infant.

They are one of five families unable to get visas after travelling from B.C. to Japan this spring to pick up their adopted children.

Vancouver lawyer Alex Stojicevic represents the group and said Tuesday that the issue appears to be a change in American policy around adoptions from Japan, which led the Canadian government to seek an opinion from the Japan’s justice ministry.

All of the families followed a process that has been in place for at least a decade, which includes getting a letter from the provincial government saying there are no objections to the adoption, Stojicevic said.

One family used the same process to successfully adopt another child from Japan a few years ago, he said.

“When they left (Canada), they thought all the legalities had been met. And they had been. As far as we’re concerned, they still have been,” Stojicevic said.

“We’re sitting here in limbo wondering, what’s the problem?”

READ MORE: B.C. children adoption rates lagging, despite increased funding, watchdog says

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said in a statement that the federal government is seeking clarification from the Japanese government to ensure adoptions respect Japanese laws.

The statement said that while the matter is being investigated, the department “cannot finalize the processing of cases where the adoption will be completed in Canada and where the transfer of custody is not confirmed by a court order.”

“Our hearts go out to the prospective parents, who have travelled to Japan to adopt children,” the statement said. “We understand and sympathize with their very difficult situation, however (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) must respect its obligations under international and Canadian laws which is in the best interests of the children involved.”

For Hoag, the visa process has been “a tragedy.”

“Lost in all this bureaucracy is the complete hardship that five Canadian families are enduring,” he said.

Hoag and his wife, Wiyani Prayetno, went to Japan in early May to meet their baby girl.

It was one of his most deeply rewarding moments, he said.

“I took her into my arms, my wife took her into her arms, we hugged each other and we felt like a complete family unit.”

They quickly sent the baby’s information off to the Canadian embassy and expected to have a visa within a couple of weeks. Then they received an email saying that visas had been suspended for Canadians adopting kids from Japan.

By early June, Hoag had to return to Canada for work.

“To leave your wife and baby in a country where they have no friends or family to support them was a pretty brutal outcome,” he said.

He speaks with his wife every day and gets updates about how his baby is growing, but Hoag said it’s not the same as being with his daughter and seeing her “beautiful dimple.”

“You’re missing out on the real experiences in life that, at the end of your day, you look back and those were the moments that made everything good. I want to stop missing these moments, for sure.”

The delays have also created unexpected financial stress, on top of an already costly adoption process, Hoag said.

They’re missing work, paying for indefinite hotel stays and have had to buy baby items that they already own in B.C.

“Families are scraping by, they’re taking out lines of credit with their banks,” Hoag said.

With no resolution in sight, many of the families are also concerned about their 90-day tourist visas running out, he added.

Hoag just wants his family to be reunited soon.

“Not only have we followed all of the laws, but I really think that the government has a moral and ethical responsibility to take care of its citizens in a time of need,” he said. “And this is a situation that has been brought on the families by the government’s delay.”

All five of the families followed a lawful process and the federal government owes them a duty of care, said Stojicevic.

“It would be monumentally unfair if the visas for these children were refused on the grounds of the goal posts being shifted on them mid process, which is what we’re talking about here.”

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Kelowna Capital News)
B.C. Labour Board orders Peachland cannabis company to reinstate laid-off employees

The B.C. Labour Relations Board determined the employees were laid off due to their plan to unionize

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna Francophone school

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

In this file photo, snow is seen falling along the Coquihalla Highway. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Weather statement issued for Coquihalla, Hwy 3, as arctic front approaches

The early season snowfall expected to hit Fraser Valley, Friday, Oct. 23

BC Green Party candidate Amanda Poon (left) and BC Liberal Party candidate Renee Merrifield (right). (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Person who attended BC Liberal candidate’s Kelowna home event tests positive for COVID-19

Kelowna-Mission candidate Renee Merrifield has not exhibited any symptoms of the virus

Myra Canyon Halloween SCARE Park opens on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (Contributed)
Myra Canyon SCARE park returns this Halloween season

Opening night is this coming Friday, Oct. 23 at 5:30 p.m.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Curtis Sagmoen
Public warning issued to North Okanagan sex trade workers

RCMP warns workers to stay away from Salmon River Road area

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Two pigs roam the Salmon Arm Walmart parking lot during a prior visit photographed by Danielle Burgi. (Danielle Burgi photo)
Pigs trot over for a visit at Salmon Arm shopping centre

Employees say this was the second drop-in from the temporarily free-range porkers

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Penticton law courts. (Black Press file)
Osoyoos man in court for alleged shooting

The Oct. 11 shooting left a man with non-life threatening injuries

Most Read