The federal government has opened a new “humanitarian pathway” to welcome up to 11,000 Colombian, Haitian, and Venezuelan foreign nationals.
In its Friday announcement, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said applicants must be family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents who agree to support them for one year to qualify.
Successful applicants will receive services “including an employment skills assessment and a referral to a settlement service provider organization in their community,” IRCC said in a news release. “They may also be eligible for transitional financial assistance.”
Applicants must plan to live outside Quebec, as the province “has chosen not to participate in the program,” IRCC said.
The new pathway is part of Ottawa’s fulfilment of a promise Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made in March as he announced the expansion of the Safe Third Country Agreement that effectively put an end to irregular crossings at Quebec’s Roxham Road passage, where tens of thousands of asylum seekers entered the country in recent years. Asylum claims have since surged at domestic airports.
Mr. Trudeau said in a statement at the time that Canada would “welcome 15,000 migrants on a humanitarian basis from the Western Hemisphere over the course of the year, with a path to economic opportunities to address forced displacement, as an alternative to irregular migration.”
In October, Immigration Minister Marc Miller said that as part of this commitment, Ottawa would welcome an additional 4,000 temporary foreign workers from the Western Hemisphere this year, “many of whom have already arrived in Canada.”
Adèle Garnier, a Université Laval geography professor who studies migration, said the program is vague and seems at odds with its stated humanitarian goals.
Dr. Garnier said the need for existing family support in Canada will exclude some of the most vulnerable people from the pathway. “We twist the meaning of the word ‘humanitarian,’” she said in an interview.
As for the 4,000 temporary foreign workers, there is no mention of whether they will have the opportunity to become permanent residents, Dr. Garnier said.
Frantz André, a spokesperson for the Non-status Action Committee, a Montreal-based migrants rights advocacy group, said he welcomed the opening of the pathway, but that 11,000 was a small number compared to the total number of those in need of the pathway.
He said he is in contact with many families in the Haitian Canadian community who have been waiting for years to be reunified with family members stuck in their home country.
Mr. André also denounced Quebec’s decision not to take part in the federal program, as the province is home to a large diaspora of French-speaking Haitians who would be happy to welcome family members and help them settle there. They, in turn, would provide a ready work force as many sectors are still struggling with staff shortages.
“I take this insult at face value, and I even condemn it as practically intolerance and even racism,” Mr. André said in an interview.
Quebec’s Ministry of Immigration, Francization and Integration did not reply to a request for comment from The Globe and Mail on Saturday.
IRCC said the pathway was “meant to alleviate migration pressures” as the world faces “an unprecedented migration crisis.” The agency said it would monitor the pathway’s progress “and adjust as required toward these goals.”