News/Canada: Mexican group accuses B.C. couple of smuggling children to Canada

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Subject: News/Canada: Mexican group accuses B.C. couple of smuggling children to Canada
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Fri Feb 11 2000 - 09:09:34 EST


Mexican group accuses B.C. couple of smuggling children to Canada
Documents suspect: Five children have no status here
Marina Jimenez
National Post, February 3, 2000

A Mexican children's organization has accused a Vancouver couple of
smuggling five children into Canada, after discovering that the information
on their Mexican birth certificates is false.

The children, who now range in age from seven to 11, were brought into
Canada as newborns and currently live in White Rock with the couple, who
operate an adult video store in Vancouver.

Mexico's ministry for children has asked Canadian authorities to clarify
the status of the children, stating that they "appear to have been adopted
in an irregular fashion," according to a letter sent last month to Stanley
Gooch, Canada's ambassador to Mexico.

"We want to find the children's real parents. There was no process of
adoption and we don't know if these kids were robbed from Mexico," says
Juan Manuel Estrada, the director of Mexico's Foundation for Lost and
Stolen Children (FIND).

The case has been investigated by several government agencies in Canada,
including B.C.'s Ministry for Children and Family Services, who are trying
to locate the children's biological parents in Mexico.

"The information in the birth certificates is false and we have asked
Mexican child welfare authorities to identify who these children are and to
find out if there is a family member who wants to care for them," said Ross
Dawson, the ministry's director of child protection.

Mr. Dawson said the children are well cared for by the Canadian couple, and
"fully integrated" into life here, as "Canadian" as native-born children.

However, the five have no immigration status in Canada and the parents are
not legally considered to be their guardians, according to Mr. Dawson.

Although the story has received no attention in Canada, Reforma, a
newspaper in Mexico, where child-trafficking is a multi-million-dollar
business, has covered it extensively.

The White Rock couple, who are not being identified to protect the identity
of the children, arrived from Mexico with two of the newborns in 1990.
According to Reforma, they told authorities they were the couple's
illegitimate sons.

Later, authorities found two more Mexican boys and a girl in the home. The
couple told authorities the children had been given to them by a Canadian
friend who could no longer care for them.

In 1995, the couple tried to legally adopt these three children, but
neither the authenticity of the birth certificates nor the identity of the
parents could be confirmed and the adoption was rejected. The landed
immigrant status for the first two children was also revoked.

The status of all five children is now in limbo, said Mr. Dawson.

"There is no clarity as to who parented the children or how they came to
Canada. We can't recommend adoption until we trace the parents," said Mr.
Dawson.

The RCMP has investigated the case, but laid no charges because of a lack
of evidence, said Constable Dave Rasmussen, with the immigration and
passport unit.

Immigration authorities said privacy legislation precludes them from
commenting on the case.

But Jo Ann Carmichael, the lawyer representing the couple, said the family
is trying to "formalize the parenting arrangement" of the children in court.

"I cannot comment on the smuggling allegations," she said. "I can say the
children are happy, healthy, well-loved and in a secure home."

Mr. Dawson said he met with the Mexican consulate last week to discuss how
to remedy the situation in the event no family members in Mexico can be
located.

Nearly 250 Mexican children have been adopted in Canada since 1990, the
majority of them in Quebec, according to Mr. Estrada, who plans to
investigate all those cases and verify their legitimacy. He is currently
trying to repatriate 17 Mexican babies adopted illegally in the U.S.

Mr. Estrada is convinced the B.C. case amounts to child smuggling.

"I am worried there are more cases like this in Canada. It doesn't matter
that the children are well cared for," he said. "The point is the kids were
taken from Mexico illegally and the parents lied."

Melanie Orhant

morhant@igc.org
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