A Nelson couple who have lived in Haiti for more than a decade is faced with the separation of their family because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sebastien De Marre, 69, and Marie-Paule Brisson, 71, have been the foster parents of two orphaned Haitian girls, Rosena, 12, and Amaika, 8, since the children were two years old.
Brisson visited Nelson in March and was then unable to return to Haiti when all flights in and out of the country were cancelled because of the pandemic.
De Marre, still in Haiti, could take the last repatriation flight for Canadian citizens from the country Thursday (April 9), but the Canadian embassy won’t let him bring his foster daughters with him.
Brisson is currently in communication with the government and with Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison about this.
“We are ready to do anything for this to happen,” she said. “But Sebastien will not take the flight without the girls.”
The couple has gone through years of attempts in Haiti to adopt the children or get legal guardianship of them. They have failed because they are considered too old, and because of an unpredictable legal system.
Brisson and DeMarre were in Haiti before the earthquake in 2010, doing humanitarian work. They survived the disaster and stayed in Haiti to help out. Rosena, a baby at the time, survived the earthquake with no one to look after her, and the couple took her in.
The girls are the reason the couple has stayed in Haiti: without their foster parents, Rosena and Amaika would have no family and no home.
Brisson says they want the Canadian government to grant a compassionate temporary visa for the girls so they can stay in Canada during the pandemic with Brisson and De Mare, then return when the crisis has passed.
What will happen if he can’t bring the children?
“Then he will be stuck in Haiti and they won’t send another flight for him.”
Haiti is considered to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most politically unstable.
Brisson says the country is unprepared for a pandemic.
“They just accept that once again thousands of people will die, because this is their life. In the  earthquake, 300,000 people died. They know they can not face this pandemic without thousands of people dying.”