MONTREAL - Being deported from Canada meant more than just leaving the country for Paola Ortiz, it also meant exile from her two small children.

Ortiz, whose refugee claim was rejected, has two children born on Canadian soil and she wants nothing more than to have a mother and child reunion by Christmas but her application to return is awaiting the bureaucratic process in Ottawa.

The separation is being decried as inhumane by many, including her lawyer Stewart Istvanffy.

"I don't see there being any justification for these two kids to be passing Christmas without their mother," said Istvanffy.

"Canada is one of the worst countries in the world for deporting people when there's family and when there are children involved," he said.

Quebec's immigration minister granted Ortiz a certificate of selection based on humanitarian grounds.

"It touched everybody in Quebec. I myself am a mother of four children," said Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil. "I think we know the health issues the children have."

Ortiz has a 2-year-old son with autism and a 5-year-old daughter with hearing problems whom she has not seen since being deported in September.

"As Christmas approaches, it's getting personally harder for Paola to keep up her morale," Rosalid Wong, of Solidarity Across Borders.

The group has supported her return and Wong has been keeping tabs on the kids.

"The children do not understand why their mother is not there. Denise, the five-year-old child has started inventing stories about a white dragon that's taken their mother away. Other times she's convinced that it's because she hasn't been good and her mom's angry with her," said Wong.

Their father lives in Montreal and Ortiz's sister is in Sherbrooke.