Ulrick Lafleur reaches into a brown envelope and gently pulls out a large folded piece of paper from the top of a pile of immigration forms. On official Haitian state letterhead with muted lettering, as if the printer needed ink, it informs Mr. Lafleur that his 49-year-old son, Nazaire, was shot to death and that his body was found on the street on May 12. It contains technicalities – his feet were pointing south, and his head north – but no condolences.
Beneath that letter is Mr. Lafleur's application for permanent residency in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. It is dated exactly a week later, May 19, around the same time he received the letter from Haiti.
Mr. Lafleur is one of 3,500 people in Canada – 3,200 Haitians and 300 Zimbabweans – who were affected when the federal government lifted a hold on deportations to their home countries in December, deeming the situation in Haiti and Zimbabwe to be stable. Those without status were given six months to apply for residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Hundreds raced to submit the applications by the June 1 deadline. Some will be granted permanent residency and some will be eventually removed from Canada.
For others who have been in the country for years, it's their second or third application to stay in Canada. Prior rejections and the thought of it happening again have discouraged many from filing the application and they have gone underground.
The moratorium on deportations went into effect for Zimbabwe in 2002 and for Haiti in 2004.
In 2002, many people fled Zimbabwe because of political unrest after Robert Mugabe was re-elected as President.
Two years later, in Haiti, a coup d'état removed president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, creating years of instability. Then, in 2010, an earthquake hit the country's capital, Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000 people.
Haitians and Zimbabweans in Canada claim violence and unrest still plague their countries.
A travel advisory for Haiti on the Canadian government's website, last updated on May 22, says, "Crime rates are high and the security situation is unpredictable."
Quebec Immigration had counted only 500 applications for residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds as of May, prompting its minister, Kathleen Weil, and community organizations to appeal to the federal government to grant an extra three months.
It costs $550 per person and 20 hours to fill out the humanitarian and compassionate demand for residency.
"I am desolate," said Mr. Lafleur, who was denied refugee and residency applications in 2007 and 2010.
If he had attended his son's funeral in Haiti, he would not have been able to come back to Canada, where he has lived for the past seven years, because of his lack of status here.
But he said he would not want to stay in Haiti, either. "I have nothing there. My house was destroyed by the earthquake, and now my son is dead," he said in an interview.
Poignant tales have emerged from Haitians who are deploring the decision that may send them back to Haiti, where they say it's not safe.
For William Antoine, a father of two with one on the way, this is his fourth time applying and his eighth year in Canada. He fears being separated from his children who were – and will be – born in Canada.
"We're really worried," he said last week outside the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office in Montreal, where a protest was held. "We work and pay for our children's education – they're the ones who could really contribute to Canadian society. Who knows? [One of them] could be prime minister one day."
Jean Enor Goin, who was vocal about his story at the protest, fled Haiti in 2007 after he was stabbed for being gay. For years, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the incident.
"I am so upset [because of the end of the moratorium], but I love it here in Canada. I have a boyfriend, friends, I work here. I don't want to leave," he said.
Despite calls from several political parties to extend the deadline, the Immigration Department stood firmly by the June 1 date.
"It should come as no surprise, not to the Haitians nor to anyone else, that these temporary measures are coming to an end, because we announced it on Dec. 1," Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said last month in the House of Commons in response to Quebec Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg, who brought up the demands for a delay.
"If Minister Weil would like to open other avenues towards permanent residence, she can use Quebec's programs to do so," Mr. Alexander said.
The Quebec government has spent $180,000 for five community organizations, including Maison d'Haiti Montréal, to help with completing the forms, which would otherwise require a lawyer. Quebec is home to 90 per cent of Canada's Haitian population of 137,995.
In response to a request for comment by The Globe and Mail, an Immigration Department spokesperson copy-pasted Mr. Alexander's response in the Commons and another said: "For those who submit an application on H&C grounds within six months of the TSR being lifted, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will defer their removal pending a final decision on their H&C application."
Mr. Dubourg, who is of Haitian descent, said the minister's response to him in Parliament was surprising. "I'd say it floored me even, the shortness of his reply," he said over the phone.
While politicians are asking for more time, the Non-Status Action Committee is advocating for all Haitians and Zimbabweans without status to be granted residency.
Serge Bouchereau, a spokesman for the committee, said he believes that the timing is a strategic appeal by the Conservatives before the fall election to what he called an increasing right-wing sentiment in the world. He thinks that they will move to deport the Haitians and Zimbabweans quietly at the end of the summer, when people are on vacation and then have their eyes on the election campaign.
Regarding the small number of applications submitted to date, Mr. Bouchereau said many feel anguish over the thought of a stranger looking at their file being responsible for their fate. "Haitians are proud people. They work hard at jobs many Canadians don't typically fill; they don't use employment insurance most of the time, and they pay taxes."
A friend of Mr. Bouchereau's, Johnny St. Paul, 51, took on extra security guard shifts, sometimes amounting to 16-hour days, to pay for the application. Most of the money he makes goes to pay for chemotherapy for the mother of one of his two sons who lives in the United States. His demand for refugee status was rejected when he first arrived in 2012.
Back home, he has an undergraduate law degree under his belt, but he said he had to leave before he could continue his career in constitutional law because he was repeatedly threatened for his outspoken political beliefs.
"My dream," he said, his voice growing louder, "is that my two sons [one is in Haiti and the other in the United States] come to Canada and get an education here."