Quebec Wants To Loosen Immigration Rules For Haitians

Quebec wants to loosen immigration rules for Haitians
Protests planned for Monday's international meeting in Montreal

CBC News
Last Updated: Thursday, January 21, 2010 | 6:54 PM ET
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The Quebec government is ready to loosen its immigration regulations to open the door to additional immigrants from Haiti, despite the fact the federal government has refused to do so, Immigration Minister Yolande James said Thursday.

(PHOTO: Members of Montreal's Haitian community vented their frustration during a meeting with federal bureaucrats Thursday.)

Currently, federal immigration regulations allow Canadians to sponsor family members, including spouses, dependent children, parents and grandparents for immigration to Canada.

Members of Quebec's Haitian community have called on government officials to extend the rules to include other family members.

The Quebec government will use a clause within its agreement with the federal government to help more Haitians leave the devastated Caribbean country, James said.

“I think when something like this happens it is important to be as flexible as possible,” James said. “There is an understanding that we are really under an exceptional situation.”

James could not say how many Haitians the province is prepared to welcome.

The province is not prepared to go over and above its plan to welcome a total of between 52,000 to 55,000 immigrants this year, she said.

“We have to be able to respect our capacity to integrate and to welcome Haitians here,” James said. “Another issue is to say that it is not our willingness to want to empty out Haiti of all its people either.”

It will take some time for the government to determine the criteria for who will be accepted and how it will work, James said.

She added the government is working as quickly as possible on the issue.

“I understand the frustration that a lot of people can feel,” James said. “[But] in terms of security [and] in terms of health checks there are some things that need to be looked at we don't want to create another problem.”

Community expresses anger

Meanwhile, the frustration of some members of Montreals Haitian community boiled over during meetings with federal immigration officials in Montreal on Thursday.

About 50 people bombarded two bureaucrats with questions, demanding why the government wont allow them to sponsor members of their extended family including aunts, uncles and cousins to help them come to Canada.

They also questioned why it is taking so long to process requests.

(PHOTO: Immigration Minister Yolande James says the province is looking at how it can open the door to additional Haitian immigrants. (CBC)

Some called on members of the community to take to the streets in protest during a meeting of countries that are leading the rescue effort in Haiti, planned for Monday in Montreal.

“We dont have time for blah, blah, blah,” said Jules Ginette, whose mother is stuck in Haiti. “We need an answer for our families they are hungry, they are thirsty.”

Community leader Pierreson Vaval agreed the federal governments response has been inadequate.

“It is like youre talking to an answering machine,” Vaval said. “I think the other countries they are very open, but Canada has a problem somewhere.

“We hope that it's not a racial problem.”

Another group, Haiti Action Montreal, is also planning to protest the Haiti summit, which will be held at the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The group is concerned about what it calls the militarization of relief efforts.

Aid is not flowing to Haitis poorest people, said Haiti Action Montreal spokesman Yves Engler.

Relief efforts “must respect Haitian sovereignty and reorient international aid, away from sweatshop exploitation and non-governmental charity, and towards systematic investment in Haiti's own people and government, the group said in a statement released Thursday.