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Ottawa working on speedy, safe adoptions Add to ...

The Canadian government says it will try to ease the process for future adoptions of Haitian orphans in the face of public pressure to help children left parentless by last week's earthquake.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said he remains concerned about the risk that people who prey on children could gain access to orphans through a faster adoption process, but added Ottawa will work with Unicef to find safe methods of streamlining the system.

"I know there's a lot of Canadians who want to help Haitian orphans, and over the long term, we'll consider how we can work with international organizations to help these orphans in terms of perhaps adopting them in Canada," Mr. Kenney told a news conference in Quebec yesterday.

The minister said his immediate priority is expediting the pending adoption of 60 Haitian children by Canadians, and that he is seeking approval from provincial child-welfare agencies and Haiti's shattered government to bring them to Canada.

"We are contacting the Haitian authorities to see if there is a streamlined way we can get their approval to extract these children."

Mr. Kenney said he's prepared to take the extraordinary step of issuing temporary resident permits to allow the Haitian children to enter Canada before all the legal steps are completed in their adoption.

On broader efforts to resettle Haitian orphans, Mr. Kenney said he is anxious to avoid any shortcuts in the adoption process that could enable unscrupulous people to obtain children for the purpose of human trafficking. But he said he's received calls from charities and individuals wanting to bring Haitian orphans here.

Only days ago, Ottawa opened the door for Canadians and permanent residents to bring their Haitian relatives to Canada, a move that will see an estimated 5,000 Haitians immigrate in 2010.

But the government is so far unwilling to embark on any mass immigration effort such as what happened in the 1970s when Vietnamese refugees - at the time called "Vietnamese boat people" - were resettled in Canada.

Mr. Kenney said there are no means for Haitians made destitute by the disaster to apply for asylum in Canada as refugees because earthquake victims don't qualify under international conventions.

However, Canada is also guaranteeing a home, for now, to about 1,000 temporary residents - workers, students and visitors - whose stay is limited by the expiry date on their visas. These Haitians have been given assurances they will not be sent home when their visas expire.

Altogether, Ottawa is ensuring that as many as 6,000 Haitians will be able to come to Canada or remain here.

Since 2004, Ottawa has had a policy of not deporting failed refugee claimants to Haiti, given the country's social problems. That means it's not sending back 1,900 failed refugee claimants and won't deport any of the 8,000 with pending claims if their bids for asylum fail.

Canada would likely be facing a larger wave of Haitian immigration if Mr. Kenney hadn't moved last October to prevent Haitians who show up at the Canada-U.S. border from claiming refugee status. The policy is consistent with an international agreement requiring asylum-seekers to apply for refugee status in the United States if they visit that country before Canada.

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