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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 18.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Immigration Minister Marc Miller says an NDP motion passed with Liberal support this week that calls for a freeze on arms exports to Israel could make it harder for Canadians with family members in the Gaza Strip to bring them to this country.

Israel is vetting a list of Palestinians who have applied to join family members in Canada through a reunification program introduced by Ottawa in January, an initiative intended to help people in Gaza reach safety in Canada. The United Nations has said a quarter of the strip’s population faces starvation as the war between Israel and Hamas continues. The Palestinian death toll in the war has surpassed 30,000, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

The NDP motion passed late on Monday. It includes a call for Canada to “cease the further authorization and transfer of arms exports to Israel to ensure compliance with Canada’s arms export regime.”

Mr. Miller told reporters on Wednesday that it would be “naive” to think the motion will have no consequences for the family reunification program.

“The Israeli government has been quite clear in saying they are watching the actions of the Canadian government, and any actions that are seen as to be unfavourable can affect their decision-making at the highest political level,” he told reporters. “And so we can’t be naive as a country as to the actions that we take and the impact that that can have on the ground and for actual people’s lives.”

Mr. Miller said the motion represents “a principled position,” and that he did not oppose its adoption, even though it could affect the program, which he said had been a “failure” so far.

“On the particular impact of that program, I don’t think that motion was necessarily a good thing,” he added.

Almost 1,000 Palestinians have applied to come to Canada to join family under the special immigration program, but so far none have made it to Canada.

Mr. Miller’s spokesperson, Bahoz Dara Aziz, said on Wednesday that the Immigration Department is aware that some Palestinians have been resorting to paying bribes to cross the border into Egypt, where they would have to undergo biometric tests and further vetting before coming to Canada.

Mr. Miller told reporters there is “a tension between publicly supporting individual efforts to have people extract themselves, sometimes with dubious actors and bribing people, including perhaps even criminal elements, to save their own lives. That can’t be an official policy of the Government of Canada.”

Johan Quno, a Palestinian-Canadian who lives in Ottawa, applied in January for her brother and his family and other relatives in Gaza to join her. She said there has been no progress on the application since then, and that some of her family members are losing hope.

She said her brother has a six-month-old baby and can’t find milk or diapers. Some of her family members, she added, are living in a tent. Some people are paying to cross the border into Egypt, she said, but the sums being charged are prohibitively high.

“There is an option to pay $5,000 U.S. to an Egyptian company in Cairo, and they will get you out within 20 days,” she said. “That’s crazy money.”

Wesam Nofal, a pharmacist from Toronto, has applied for her brother and his wife and their four children to come to Canada from Gaza. She said she also has heard nothing from the government. She feels as though she is being treated as a “third-class citizen,” she said.

“They are starving, they are under these bombs, and I cannot help them,” she added.

On Wednesday, families of the Israelis who were killed or taken hostage during Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 people in the country and began the war, gathered in the House of Commons to share details of their families’ ordeal.

Ashley Waxman Bakshi, originally from Hamilton, Ont., called for the release of her 19-year-old cousin Agam Berger, who is among the hostages still being held in Gaza. She said the motion passed on Monday made the pain of her cousin’s abduction far worse.

“It felt like the knife that had been stabbed in my heart on October 7 was being pushed deeper and deeper by my own government,” she said.

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