With Haiti in turmoil, lawyers call for faster family reunification

Stéphanie Valois

Slandie Edouard came to Canada as a refugee claimant more than two years ago and she hasn’t seen her two sons, aged five and eight, in person since.

“I want to touch them. I want to give them a hug, but I can’t,” said Edouard.

The boys lives with Edouard’s mother in Haiti — a troubled country plunged deeper into turmoil by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last week.

Moise was killed early Wednesday at his Port-au-Prince home by what Haitian authorities describe as a unit of assassins formed of 26 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans.

Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of Haitians who have settled in Quebec are watching the drama unfold with bated breath, worried for their family and friends.

Kids stuck waiting for application to be processed

Edouard says she works in Montreal seven days a week, doing what it takes to support her kids and save enough money to get them to Canada.

Jovenel Moise

She submitted her permanent resident application a year ago and has yet to hear back. With permanent resident status, she would be able to bring her kids to the country more easily.

Instead, she is watching the news and worrying about their safety. She has lived through past coups, and often people with relatives abroad often fall victim to violence when a government is overthrown, she said.

Immigration lawyer Stéphanie Valois says there are many Haitian families in Montreal going through the same thing, but the average processing time for immigration applications like Edouard’s is two years. That’s too long, she said.

“We all know that these children will eventually be able to travel to Canada. Most of these files are decided positively. There’s no reason for the children to be refused…therefore, why wait?” she said.

Immigration lawyer Stéphanie Valois says two years is too long to wait for an application to be approved, especially for those who are living in the troubled country of Haiti.

Valois is the president of Quebec’s association of immigration lawyers, which goes by its French acronym, AQAADI.

As president,she penned an open letter that, signed by some 50 others — including several Haitian community groups — calls on the Canadian government to speed up the immigration for Haitian applicants.

“Like the special programs adopted for Lebanon and Hong Kong, we ask Canada and Quebec to take all measures to prioritize visa and permanent residence applications submitted by members of the immediate family of citizens and permanent residents of Canada, as well as Haitians recognized as refugees and persons in need of protection,” the letter states.

The letter was published in La Presse, a digital newspaper, last Monday. It notes that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to do everything he could to help people in Haiti after the assassination.

No one from the federal immigration ministry was available to comment Tuesday.