By Gerald V. Paul
“I don’t understand why the Canadian government is pushing full steam ahead as they are ending the moratorium on the deportations to Haiti,” Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg (Bourassa) told The Camera on Saturday at Toronto City Hall.
The Quebec MP said that on May 12 he brought an oral question to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander: “Mr. Speaker, there has been a great deal of concern in the Haitian community ever since the Conservative government lifted the moratorium on deportations to Haiti and Zimbabwe for over 3,500 people.
“Many of these individuals have been in Canada for 10 years and are wondering whether they will be deported.”
Dr. Eric Pierre, honorary consul general for Haiti, said the Canadian government currently has a travel advisory for Haiti, saying “the security situation is hazardous and very unpredictable.”
Haiti was severely damaged in a massive 2010 earthquake and has yet to fully recover. Canada pledged at that time to help the country rebuild.
Dubourg said the minister gave that group until June 1 to regularize their status. So far, only 20% have submitted applications, despite the fact the government of Quebec has allocated resources to support them.
“Will the minister agree to (Kathleen Weil) the Quebec immigration minister’s request to extend the deadline by three months?” Dubourg asked.
Alexander replied, “These temporary measures have been in place for 10 years, thanks to one of the most generous immigration systems in the world. It should come as no surprise, not to the Haitians nor to anyone else, that these temporary measures are coming to an end, because we announced it on Dec.1.”
According to Alexander, Weil met the community in January and “I personally visited the Maison d’Haiti in Montreal and the one in Toronto three times. If minister Weil would like to open other avenues towards permanent residence, she can use Quebec’s programs to do so.”
Meanwhile, advocates for refugees were shocked by Ottawa’s decision citing reports by the federal government itself and international aid groups that found little progress in Haiti or Zimbabwe.
“The conditions have not improved at all,” said lawyer Raul Boulakia, president of Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario. “For Canada to lift the suspension of removals when things remain precarious, it’s a complete disregard of what’s happening there.”
The refugee council and la Mason d’Haiti, a Montreal-based Haitian community group, have urged the government to grant these people permanent residence if they have been here for three or more years.