Widlene Earle has never been to Canada, but she calls the country home and holds it in high regard because of its warm welcomes, cold snow and its eternal connection to Justin Bieber.
The 12-year-old from Haiti was disappointed when she found out she wouldn't be strapping on a backpack and strutting down hallways in a junior high school in Ontario this year because of an unfinished adoption process that's been ongoing for eight years.
"We thought she'd be going to school in Canada last week, so when she watched all her friends here do their back to school shopping… it was heartbreaking," said Vaden Earle, Widlene's adoptive father.
Earle is from the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, but now lives in the Dominican Republic.
Over a Canadian cellphone line that has been more crackly and unreliable since Hurricane Irma, Earle spits out the same story he's been telling his 5,000 Facebook friends and all 338 members of Parliament for months, as he tries to bring attention to his plight.
"She's seen more atrocities in the first four years of her life before I met her … probably than you or I," said Earle, who met Widlene on a humanitarian trip.
Widlene's short life is riddled with tragedy, including growing up in extreme poverty, losing her mother and living though natural disasters, he said.
After Widlene's mother died, Earle said she was at risk of being forced to go to her home country of Haiti to be sold as a slave.
In 2009, Earle and his wife took guardianship of Widlene and started an adoption process that's been delayed by the 2010 Haiti earthquake and changing legislation in the Caribbean that left Widlene stateless.
Like many minorities of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic, Earle said she's denied citizenship and is at risk of violence and deportation.
Bring Widlene Home protest in St. John's
Supporters of the family quietly made their message clear outside the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John's on Monday night, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended a forum on Broadway musical Come from Away.
"We started to follow the prime minister about a month and a half ago and there's only been a handful of events in the last six weeks that we've not had supporters at," said Earle.
Grandparents waiting in Newfoundland
Mona Earle, a cousin of Vaden's, attended the gathering, which attendees called an awareness campaign rather than a protest.
"Vaden's parents are older, they're two of the sweetest people you've ever met in your life and they're just not physically or financially capable to visit the Dominican Republic right now," said Mona Earle.
"I would really like to meet her and there's a lot of love here, there's a lot of family here for her."
Life in hurricane season
The setbacks have not been encouraging, but Earle pushes on and is thankful to have friends, families and strangers help his cause.
As they wait for news from the Canadian government, the family will continue to do their day-to-day tasks — Widlene learning with a tutor and Vaden preparing for hurricane season.
As for his plans when he does get back to Canada, Earle said the family is "really shooting for normal and boring and we've had enough excitement for a couple of years."