Canadian mom stuck in Jamaica, seeks justice
Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I live a life in limbo in Jamaica. Seven years ago I came to Jamaica for a short trip. I was charmed by the island’s spirit and a man I believed was my dream partner. As I settled into married life, the reality of my situation became clear, especially when I became pregnant with twins. Medical issues prevented me from returning to Canada, and I found myself anchored to Jamaica in ways I hadn’t planned. I am now living in Jamaica as an illegal alien. The bureaucratic entanglement between Canadian and Jamaican laws has left me in a paradox. I cannot return to Canada because my children, born here, have been denied Canadian passports. Jamaican law requires my estranged husband’s consent for their travel — a consent that has not been forthcoming.
After years of persistence, my children were finally recognised as Canadians from birth. Yet, the battle continues as they have been denied Canadian passports. Living in Jamaica without legal status, the right to work, or family support, has been a profound struggle. It has cost me everything — my family, savings, and even my career. The journey has been marked repeatedly by the issue of spousal consent. The system, as it stands, criminalises mothers for overstaying to raise their children, an unjust and heartbreaking situation. I am reaching out for support, awareness, and understanding from the community. Our voices can make a difference in bringing about change and justice.
I am really sorry to learn of your struggles. It seems you have lost everything but the gift of your children. I am very surprised that no one seems to have advised or suggested to you to make applications to the Supreme or Family courts to obtain orders for sole legal custody of the twins; maintenance for them; and spousal support for yourself. Or better still, because you have spent years wrestling with your difficulties without any resolution, that you could have applied for a divorce and for the orders I have referred to above, in such a petition.
There are institutions and organisations which could have assisted you, if not with action, then with at least information about what you could and should do. Going to the Family Court and seeking the assistance of the clerk of this court or the intake officer or co-ordinator and relating all the facts of your situation would have led to such person pointing out and advising you to whom, where, and what office, agency, or institution you ought to go to and report you and your children’s situations and the abandonment by your husband of all his legal obligations to and for you and the twins. The Family Court you must use is that which serves the parish in which you and the twins reside.
You should state in your affidavit that you may be an illegal resident (though by reason of your marriage you could have obtained not only residential rights, but the right to register as a Jamaican citizen after a period of five years). Also, as a Canadian citizen, you are not an alien because you are a Commonwealth citizen.
Your applications to the Family Court would have your residential address and that of the twins. In your affidavits in support of the applications, you must include the fact that you are unemployed; that you were abandoned by your Jamaican husband with your twins, his children; that he has not been providing any maintenance for the children and none for you either; and that as a result you no longer have any savings, which you had to use to pay for yours and the children’s necessities, and that your estranged husband has not shown any interest in the children from before and subsequent to their birth and, therefore, you are applying for sole legal custody and care and control. You must also exhibit certified copies of their birth certificates and a certified copy of your marriage certificate in your affidavit. With such an order made by the court, you would have full legal control over and for the children and you would not have any need for the father’s consent to take them out of the jurisdiction. You would need to add a certified copy of the court order to your re-application to the Canadian High Commission for your children’s visas.
I hope that you will do what I have suggested and if you do not succeed please let me know and I shall be happy to advise you further about more steps that you can take.
All the very best to you and your twins, and may you have a very good Christmas this year and a very happy New Year.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women’s and children’s rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.