Protests Across Canada Urge Politicians to Help Reunite Families Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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MONTREAL – Protesters gathered in cities across Canada on Saturday, calling on the government to do more to help reunite families separated by slow immigration procedures and travel bans linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Montreal, demonstrators gathered in front of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada offices on Saint-Antoine Street West. Among them were Misha Pelletier and her son Santino, who have been waiting for a visa for Pelletier’s husband in Tunisia since they started the process in September 2018.

Pelletier is part of a group calling itself ‘Families pending family sponsorship in Canada affected by COVID-19’.

“I feel completely defeated right now,” said Pelletier. “I decided to fight because the only thing I can do when no one is listening is raise my voice even more. ”

Other protests took place in Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.

“We have sent over 40,000 letters to the offices of Justin Trudeau and Minister (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship) Marco Mendicino, and we have received no response,” said Pelletier, who is part of the movement.

With these protests across the country, organizers hope to get Ottawa’s attention so the government can address their situation as a matter of priority.

Pelletier said couples and families separated by COVID-19 could be reunited on June 8, but only in cases where the person outside of Canada was in a country for which no entry visa was available. granted or required, such as the United States or France.

“They forgot about us. We now want them to listen to us to bring our loved ones. They are not visitors, they are our families, ”said Pelletier.

According to a document prepared by the group, activists want to speed up the process of reuniting families and husbands.

The group said significant delays in processing applications already existed long before the health crisis hit.

To solve the problem, the citizens’ group proposes the creation of a “special temporary residence visa” allowing families to come to Canada and stay there until the end of the sponsorship process.

Criteria for ensuring the safety of the process include documentary evidence and an obligation to follow health protocols to prevent cases of COVID-19.

ONE YEAR AWAY FROM HER HUSBAND

Pelletier met her husband, originally from Tunisia, while studying in Quebec, in 2017. After two years together, the young man was refused permission to stay in Canada in 2019.

They first attempted a common-law sponsorship which was refused, then decided to marry to simplify the process. Despite this, more than a year after sending their request, Immigration Canada still has not responded to the couple.

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, the situation has deteriorated and families feel abandoned by the government.

“The offices are not closed for student visas or work visas, they are closed just for us: family sponsorship. We are always the last on the priority list, ”said Pelletier.

A petition has been launched on the House of Commons website and is sponsored by Vancouver East NDP MP Jenny Kwan. He collected 4,457 signatures on Saturday afternoon.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 8, 2020.

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