Monday, November 26, 2012

Cuban man and son reunited in St. John's

Cuban man and son reunited in St. John's
CBC News
Posted: Nov 25, 2012 9:52 AM NT
Last Updated: Nov 25, 2012 11:41 AM NT

Yadier Perez, a Cuban man now living and working in St. John's, has
finally been reunited with his five-year-old son.

Perez, who arrived in St. John's in Nov. 2010, after Canada had accepted
him as a refugee, had been trying to get son, Carlos, to Canada, ever since.
Yadier Perez has finally been reunited with his son, Carlos. Yadier
Perez has finally been reunited with his son, Carlos. (Facebook)

Canadian officials had issued a visa to the boy in Feb. 2012, but Perez
said the Cuban government had been dragging its heels on permitting the
boy to leave the country.

Perez said he suspected that was because his family had a history of
friction with the Cuban government.

Carlos' mother had died during childbirth, and Perez had been struggling
to make ends meet in Cuba for himself and his son ever since.
Perez granted refugee status in Canada

Perez tried to flee to Miami from Cuba by boat in July 2010, but the
boat ran out of gas and left Perez and a number of other would-be
refugees stranded on a small island. Eventually, they were picked up by
the US Coast Guard and brought to the American military base in Cuba at
Guantanomo Bay.

There, he was interviewed by Canadian officials, granted refugee status,
and eventually arrived in St. John's in Nov. 2010.

All the while, Carlos' grandmother was taking care of him until his
father could arrange for him to come to Canada.
Perez battling bureaucracy

Since February, officials at St. John's East MP Jack Harris' office had
been helping Perez navigate through Canadian and Cuban bureaucracy.

Finally, young Carlos, who will turn six next month, was given
permission to leave Cuba. A friend of Perez, Astrid Fudge, flew to Cuba
in October, met with immigration officials, and two weeks later, she
accompanied Carlos on a flight to Toronto.

"[We] went through immigration there in Toronto," recalled Fudge.
"[Officials there ] fitted him with a winter coat, boots, snow pants and
a hat and mitts and gave it to him and put it in a plastic, see through
garbage bag."

Fudge said the immigration officials could speak Spanish and were
talking with Carlos.

[Carlos] threw it on his back and he said something and they all
laughed. I said 'what did he say?' They said 'he said he's Santa Claus
'cause he threw it on his back.'"
Emotional reunion

On Nov.2, father and son, who had not seen each other for more than two
years, were reunited at the St. John's International Airport.

Perez said while he waited for Fudge and his son to arrive in St. John's
from Toronto, he was nervous.

"Your face, how much he change," said Perez, using his new English
skills. "But he, he look at me, he look me, he laughing, he say okay, he
recognize me.

"I have no words. I think, I very sure this the best time of my life."
Boy adjusting well

Young Carlos has been adjusting well. Within a few days of his arrival,
he started school in St. John's and he has started to learn English.

He has also been enjoying the wide range of cartoons available on the
television at his father's apartment.

Fudge said the little boy is a bit overwhelmed by the variety of toys
available here.

"Saturday we went to WalMart and of course the toys are all out now,"
said Fudge. "And he's just looking and he had sense enough, he came back
and tapped his father on the leg and said, 'papa, there's too much
stuff, my mouth's open.'"

Carlos has also gone through a car wash, up to Signal Hill, and to a
restaurant for pizza.

Perez said his co-workers at North Atlantic Marine have been especially
kind to his son.

Earlier this month, Perez said he was told to go up to his company's
office to deal with a problem.

When he arrived, he saw a table full of toys donated by his co-workers
for his son.

As for Carlos, his favourite thing about his new home so far has been
all the toys. "The most I like is the toys," he says in his limited english.

Perez said Carlos is also waiting for snow.

"I say soon, soon the snow coming," laughed Perez.

Perez said he still has not found the words in either English or Spanish
to explain how happy he has become to have his son with him.

But he did say he is optimistic that changes gradually happening in Cuba
will make it easier for Cubans to travel outside their country, and for
other families to avoid the same sort of separation he and Carlos have

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