Thursday, February 13, 2014


Regina doctor who lied to Ukrainian authorities on adoption papers can’t raise children in Canada, court rules | National Post

February 12, 2014

Regina doctor who lied to Ukrainian authorities on adoption papers can't raise children in Canada, court rules

By Tristin Hopper

A Regina medical doctor has been barred from raising her newly adopted children in Canada after immigration officials ruled she unlawfully secured the children from a Ukrainian orphanage through an elaborate ruse.

"She is responsible for the position in which the children now find themselves," reads a recent ruling by a Saskatchewan Federal Court upholding the decision of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Ministry, adding the unnamed children may be henceforth denied "a normal family life."

The case concerns Svitlana Cheshenchuk, a Ukraine-born doctor, who came to Saskatchewan in 1998 and now has Canadian and Ukrainian citizenship.

In the summer of 2011, Dr. Cheshenchuk flew to her hometown of Vinnitsa, where she has an apartment, and adopted two children, a brother and sister, then aged three and four respectively.

The adoptions were not in accordance with Ukrainian law
But when she tried to bring the children back to Saskatchewan, a citizenship and immigration officer at the Canadian embassy in Kyiv uncovered a "serious irregularity" in their adoption papers. The official concluded the adoption order would have never have been approved if Ukrainian authorities had known Dr. Cheshenchuk intended to take the children abroad.

Ukrainian law is quite strict about allowing foreign adoptions. Foreign parents, even if they are dual citizens such as Dr. Cheshenchuk, can only adopt children older than five. Even then, officials are reluctant to allow adoption of children who are not disabled or form part of a group of four to five siblings.

An adoption fact sheet drafted by the Ukrainian embassy in Washington says it is "almost impossible" to adopt a healthy five- to six-year-old, or even a seven- to eight-year-old child with no siblings.

In what Canadian immigration officials would allege was a deliberate "misrepresentation," Dr. Cheshenchuk applied for a domestic adoption. She did not mention her Canadian citizenship or her 13 years in Regina.

And although she is married to a Canadian, Wojciech Ziarko, she also claimed she was a single mother, producing divorce papers from a previous marriage as evidence.

When all this became known to Canadian immigration officials, they denied her application for Canadian citizenship for the children, arguing "Ukrainian legislation on international adoptions was not respected."

In a submission to Federal Court, the immigration ministry justified the decision by arguing Kyiv is strict about foreign adoptions for the precise purpose of keeping children in Ukraine.

It added Ukrainian authorities would never have approved Dr. Cheshenchuk's adoption "had [she] disclosed that she was a Canadian citizen residing in Canada, even if she also has connections to Ukraine and has been spending time in Ukraine."

In short, concluded a Federal Court document, "the adoptions were not in accordance with Ukrainian law."

Ms. Cheshenchuk testified she went to Ukraine with no ulterior motives.

The court seems to be sending a strong message to prospective adoptive parents not to skirt local law
She did not mention her Canadian residency, she said, because she was legitimately hoping to remain permanently in Ukraine and work as a translator. She changed her mind after her finances began to dwindle.

As for her husband, she said at the time of the adoption they had legally separated because of "difficulties in their relationship," but reunited after she returned to Regina.

Last month, a federal court judge called the explanations "unconvincing."

For starters, only three months before her purportedly permanent departure to Vinnitsa, Ms. Cheshenchuk had obtained approval from the Saskatchewan government to bring home two adopted Ukrainian children.

In addition, the children had only been in Dr. Cheshenchuk's care for five days before she called the Canadian embassy in Kyiv in a bid to get visas for them.

In October 2012, Dr. Cheshenchuk went to federal court in Regina to have the immigration ministry's decision overturned.

Last month, the court not only dismissed the application, but forced her to pay costs.

Sergio Karas, an Ontario-based immigration lawyer, notes costs are rarely imposed in immigration cases and suspects the court was warning anyone who might try Dr. Cheshenchuk's ruse.

"The court seems to be sending a strong message to prospective adoptive parents not to skirt local law and regulations regarding adoptions," he said.

The children remain in Ukraine where they "are being cared for by a live-in nanny and members of [Dr. Cheshenchuk's] family," according to court documents.

The federal court decision acknowledged denying the children Canadian citizenship could "harm them" and cause them to be "unjustly penalized." Nevertheless, this was no reason to overlook the "irregularities" of Dr. Cheshenchuk's case.

"The Ukrainian law on foreign adoptions cannot be disregarded in deference to some alleged greater good that the Court has no means of assessing," it said.

National Post

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