Immigration measures for Haiti
Need for a broader definition
The immigration rules severely limit which family members can be sponsored (essentially spouses, children under 22 years, parents, grandparents, and some orphaned family members who are under 18 years).
The measures announced by CIC on 16 January do not propose any broadening of eligible family members.
In response to the tsunami, in contrast, CIC agreed to consider “on a case-by-case basis, other close family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have been and continue to be seriously and personally affected by the disaster”. (CIC, News release, 3 January 2005)
Recommendation: Broaden the definition of family members who can be sponsored, in the case of people who are seriously and personally affected by the earthquake. At a minimum, the provisions should be the same as were offered to the victims of the tsunami (i.e. case by case review). The most generous provisions available in one part of the country should be matched equitably across Canada.
Need for expedited processing
Current processing times at Port-au-Prince in family reunification cases are long (an average of 15 months for refugee family reunification). These times need to be dramatically reduced, particularly for people hard hit by the earthquake.
According to the 16 January CIC announcement, priority will be given to Haitian sponsorship applications. This is very encouraging: it remains to be seen what the processing times will be.
Need for expedited processing for refugee family reunification
In their release and operational bulletin, CIC speaks exclusively of expediting sponsorship applications. Refugee family reunification does not involve a sponsorship (instead family members abroad are included on the application of the refugee in Canada). There is a need to ensure that processing of dependants of refugees is also given priority.
Recommendation: Ensure that family reunification applications are meaningfully expedited and that family members of refugees are processed on the same expedited basis as Family Class sponsorships.
Need for flexibility
There are many immigration rules and they are often applied rigidly. There is a need for flexibility for persons affected by the earthquake.
For example, applicants must provide satisfactory identity documents to prove the family relationship, failing which they must undergo DNA. It will be difficult for people whose home has been destroyed to produce documents.
Fees represent another obstacle. In reponse to the tsunami, CIC waived processing fees and the Right of Permanent Resident fee for persons who were seriously and personally affected by the disaster.
In response to the earthquake, CIC is continuing to charge all the fees in family reunification cases.
CIC has available to it a mechanism to respond urgently to specific cases: the Temporary Residence Permit. CIC should use the Temporary Residence Permit for family reunification cases where the family member need to leave Haiti very quickly. The processing of their permanent residence application can then be completed in Canada.
Recommendation: Ensure flexibility in the family reunification process, including through the use of Temporary Residence Permits. In particular, TRPs should be issued for children in Haiti separated from both parents who have a parent in Canada, and for any family member who needs to leave Haiti on an urgent basis. Favourable discretion should be used to exempt applicants from medical inadmissibility where they have injuries as a result of the earthquake.
Recommendation: Waive fees (as was the case post-tsunami).
HAITIANS IN CANADA
Need to expedite pending refugee claims
Haitian refugee claimants are impatiently waiting for their hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board. As long as they don’t have refugee status, they are in a state of insecurity, and they cannot reunite with family members remaining in Haiti.
Recommendation: Priorize hearings for Haitian refugee claimants who have family members that are seriously and personally affected by the earthquake.
Need for permanent residence for Haitians whose lives are on hold
Many Haitians have been in Canada for many years but are still without permanent residence. The existing moratorium protects them from deportation, but without permanent residence they have no access to family reunification.
Given that it is not realistic to expect that they will be able to return to Haiti in the near future, a program should be put in place to grant them permanent residence.
Recommendation: Provide immediate access to permanent residence for Haitians without status who have already been in Canada for three years.
Recommendation: Process existing and new H&C applications from Haitians in Canada on an expedited basis and allow them to include immediate family members in Haiti in their applications (concurrent processing).
Need for flexibility for other Haitians in Canada without permanent status
There is also a need for flexibility in cases of Haitians in Canada on a temporary visa, for example as students.
Need for information
CIC must make available to the population clear, correct, detailed and accessible information.
21 January 2010