Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

Humanitarian Immigration Program ;: Gatineau residents regret Quebec's position

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The situation in Haiti meant that Wilbène Cenatus' brother had to leave for Mexico.

Radio-Canada

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Residents of Outaouais deplore the refusal of the Quebec government to adhere to a federal humanitarian immigration program for Colombians, Haitians and Venezuelans.

The Family Humanitarian Program, launched on November 17, allows nationals of these countries to come and settle in Canada if a member of their extended family is already in the country… unless they live in Quebec (New window).< /p>

Gatineau residents are all the more frustrated because they feel they are on the wrong side of the river. They cannot expect their loved ones to be among the 11,000 nationals who will benefit from this program.

Originally from Haiti, Gatineau resident Wilbène Cenatus immigrated to Canada in 2012 after a stint in France. The choice to settle in Quebec was natural for him, he confides, especially since he wanted to live in French.

I really chose Quebec, because it is a society that receives a lot of Haitians [and] also because Haitians have a very beautiful history here, explains the one who works today as senior program analyst in the federal government.

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Wilbène Cenatus is originally from Haiti. He takes steps to get his brother, stuck in Mexico, to join him in Canada.

Wilbène Cenatus hoped that his brother from Haiti could come and join him in Quebec thanks to Canada's Family Humanitarian Program. They have been impatiently awaiting the implementation of the program since March.

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However, in the meantime, the security situation [in Haiti] for him has deteriorated significantly, to the point of forcing him to leave for Mexico about a month ago. He left his wife behind while waiting to find a way out to Canada. He is in precarious conditions there. He does not have a legal document.

However, he noted that, when it was launched, the federal government's new program did not include Quebec. I find it sad because on the other side of the river […] they can apply for the program while I am here.

Quebec is known as a welcoming land, especially for the Haitian community and the Latin American community. I think that Quebec can do better, and I hope that there will still be a door for this program.

A quote from Wilbène Cenatus

We are French-speaking, and we would like to stay that way, he laments.

Wilbène Cenatus is not the only Gatineau resident disappointed at not being able to welcome a loved one. Of Colombian origin, Mayerli Lopez finds herself in the same situation. She was impatiently waiting for her husband to be able to join her in Outaouais thanks to this program.

Why does it work like this? she asks with a feeling of helplessness. I'm thinking of leaving Quebec because I need my husband as quickly as possible.

She wants two things from the Prime Minister of Quebec, François Legault. First of all, he should reconsider his decision not to be part of the program created following the closure of Roxham Road, as well as his comments made during a press conference in March 2023.

Given the large number [of asylum seekers] who have been received over the last year in Quebec, I think we have done our part. I think there is catching up to be done so that there are more in the other provinces, said the Prime Minister.

Mayerli Lopez admitted to being sad to hear this. I'm from quebec. My daughters were born here. I speak French. I love the culture. I think it's not fair that Quebec is the only province [which does not participate in this program].

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Mayerli Lopez is originally from Colombia. She impatiently awaits the arrival of her husband on Canadian soil.

Despite the disappointments, Wilbène Cenatus also continues to hope that Quebec will find a way to do something because it is a way of showing compassion and solidarity towards the Haitian, Venezuelan and Colombian communities.

Questioned several times by Radio-Canada, the Ministry of Immigration, Francisation and Integration of Quebec did not respond to our questions at the time of publishing this text.

On the Ottawa side, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada indicated by email that unfortunately for the affected families, the federal government can do nothing to help them.

Under the Canada-Quebec Accord, Quebec sets its own immigration levels, which the Government of Canada takes into account in the overall immigration levels plan. Quebec remains solely responsible for the selection of most immigrants who settle there.

Besides living in hope, what can people in the same situation as Mr. Cenatus and Ms. Lopez do to change their fate?

The Gatineau notary, Véronique Semexant, invites them to write to their Quebec MP and ask them for explanations.

According to her, the provincial government is showing inexplicable inconsistency in this matter. Quebec complains that foreign workers with work permits do not need to send their children to school in French. We are afraid of losing French. There, we have people who are ready to speak French, [who are] Francophiles or Francophones and we refuse them.

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Me Véronique Semexant is a notary in Gatineau.

The list of eligible members is larger than existing family reunification programs: child, grandchild, husband or wife, common-law partner, parent, grandparent, brother or sister of a permanent resident or citizen will be able to make a request.

For parents, there are still super visas. It allows you to stay in the country much longer than a normal visitor visa, she explained.

For the other members of the family, there remains the lottery, the notary imagined with irony. The Canadian government played a great joke on us by treating immigration like a lottery. It dehumanizes. Now, to become a permanent resident, we complete all the documents and hope to be successful.

Me Semexant hopes that the governments of Quebec and Canada will reopen the communication channels in order to reach common ground to include Quebec in the Family Humanitarian Program.

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Catherine Xhardez is an assistant professor in the political science department at the University of Montreal. (Archive photo)

For her part, assistant professor in the political science department at the University of Montreal, Catherine Xhardez, agreed that immigration is a complex subject, with issues, categories and a lot of figures.

She wanted to point out that behind this, there is people who are waiting, families who are not reunited and people who do not have the desired protection due to the international obligations of Canada and Quebec.

With information from Camille Kasisi-Monet

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