The NDP and QS call on Ottawa to facilitate the reunification of families in Gaza

Alexandre Boulerice, deputy leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), and Québec solidaire (QS) MP Guillaume Cliche-Rivard held a press conference Friday morning in front of the Montreal offices of Immigration Minister Marc Miller, to ask him to facilitate the issuance of visas to relatives of Canadians trying to flee the war in Palestine.

Both political parties are urging the government to eliminate “its arbitrary limit on Palestinians” and ensure that loved ones are reunited with their families more quickly.

“People die every day, hundreds of people die every day and the federal government has a responsibility to accelerate the process to save lives and avoid other human losses,” denounced MP Alexandre Boulerice.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) created a program to offer temporary visas to people stuck in the besieged Palestinian territory, provided that relatives can then support them in Canada.

But this policy stipulates that it will only examine 1,000 applications, which constitutes an injustice to Canadians of Palestinian origin, according to the NDP and QS.

“Where does this figure of 1000 people come from? We have been extremely kind and welcoming to the Syrians and the Ukrainians. Why can’t we do exactly the same thing with the Palestinians right now? That’s what we don’t understand,” added the NDP MP.

She loses her daughter and tries to save her sister

A few dozen people gathered in front of Marc Miller’s offices to support the approach of the two deputies.

Samar Alkhdour, whose 13-year-old daughter died in Gaza a few weeks ago, was among them.

“It’s the system that failed Jana,” said the grieving mother who is now trying to save her sister’s life.

“Imagine for a moment watching your beloved family members slowly die before your very eyes and in front of the whole world. You watch this with complete helplessness and despair. But for me, it’s not imaginary, it’s a reality. All I expect from the government today is to facilitate the arrival of my sister and her family in Canada before it is too late. Please,” implored Samar Alkhdour.

The 38-year-old woman, who works in an immigrant support center in Montreal, arrived in Quebec as an asylum seeker with two of her three children in 2019.

Her third child, the one who died a few weeks ago, was unable to make the trip to Canada at the time. She had stayed with family members in Gaza due to health problems.

Samar Alkhdour’s goal was to bring her daughter over once she obtained permanent residency.

But the war came to Gaza and Samar Alkhdour tried to have it urgently evacuated, without success.

Her daughter Jana was found dead due to malnutrition, according to her mother, in a church that served as a shelter on January 8. Four days after his 13e birthday.

“I was unable to grieve for Jana because today I have to continue to fight to ensure that the same thing does not happen to my sister and her family,” said the woman. Palestinian origin.

Her sister is not part of the list of 1,000 applications being examined by the Government of Canada as part of the program aimed at offering temporary visas to people stuck in the Palestinian territory.

“I applied, but I haven’t received a code yet,” she explained.

Her Palestinian husband taken in Rafah

Dina Ibrais, who is 21 years old, experiences the same kind of anguish as Samar Alkhdour.

This Canadian citizen lives with her 9-month-old son in Quebec and is trying to bring her husband, a Palestinian, to the country, who has not yet seen his child.

“I made the last request, the one announced on January 9, but nothing happens, I have no response. »

She told The Canadian Press that 38 people in her extended family have died since the start of the war.

“My husband is in Rafah and Israel says it will attack Rafah soon, they have bombs and planes, we have nothing, I just want to get my husband out,” the woman said in tears.

No presence on the ground

Currently, 976 applications are being examined. The Immigration Department began accepting visa applications on January 9.

In an email exchange with The Canadian Press, Jeffrey MacDonald, communications advisor for the department, indicated that as of February 19, six people who left Gaza on their own and whose visa applications were in progress ” were allowed to come to Canada.

Also, there are “976 requests accepted in processing” and “under review”.

Individuals whose applications are “accepted for processing” must be screened for security purposes.

In the absence of personnel in this war zone, the federal government must carry out remote investigations, relying in particular on “local authorities”, explained the communications advisor.

“Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is not present on the ground to carry out the initial screening and collection of biometric data. Using detailed biographical information provided by applicants, we are able to conduct a preliminary security check while individuals are still in Gaza. Therefore, we will be able to complete processing most applications more quickly once people leave Gaza,” explained Jeffrey MacDonald.

IRCC says it is “deeply concerned about the safety of people in the region”.

The Canadian Press asked the ministry if Ottawa could consider more than 1,000 requests for reunification, but it had not responded at the time of publishing this article.

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