CJPME condemns arbitrary limitations on Gaza family reunification and bigoted statements from Canadian officials

Montreal, January 4, 2023Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) condemns the arbitrary restrictions that the Canadian government has imposed on its family reunification measures vis-à-vis Gaza, which were announced on December 21, 2023. At the time, Immigration Minister Marc Miller revealed that Canada would offer 3-year temporary residence to the extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. However, it has since been reported that these measures will only be extended to a maximum of 1,000 individuals, while another Canadian minister has suggested this limitation is because the government sees Palestinians as a threat.

“Canada’s 1,000-person quota on Palestinian family members from Gaza is unfairly small, completely arbitrary and unjustifiable, and should be immediately removed,” said Michael Bueckert, Vice President of CJPME. “Rather than imposing arbitrary limits on who is deserving of safety, Canada should be maximizing its humanitarian response to the unfolding genocide in Gaza and supporting friends and family of Palestinian-Canadians,” added Bueckert.

CJPME notes the asymmetry with Canada’s emergency travel measures for Ukrainians following Russia’s invasion in 2022, per the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET). That program, which similarly provided 3-year temporary status, imposed no cap on applications, and at least 616,000 individuals were approved. The government also provided financial support and up to two weeks of temporary accommodations – something not accorded to applicants from Gaza. Further, the program was not restricted to the family members of Canadians – as per the program for Gaza – but any Ukrainian national and their family members could apply. “This discrepancy exposes a clear double standard, sending a message that some lives are worth more than others,” said Bueckert. “Forcing Canadians and their relatives in Gaza to compete over a small pool of visas, based on a scarcity which is entirely arbitrary, demonstrates a real lack of humanity.”

CJPME further expresses outrage over provocative comments from Canadian officials which suggest that they view the family members of Palestinian Canadians as an inherent security threat. In a statement published to Instagram on December 22, 2023, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Ya’ara Saks responded to “concerns” by explaining that the reunification program is “a limited program, the security concerns are well understood and the security requirements are strict and follow reviews from Israeli authorities.” After several sentences emphasizing security and eligibility requirements, Minister Saks’ statement ended, “I understand the concerns I’ve heard from community members. Security is always the number one priority and we will be vigilant.”

CJPME condemns Minister Saks’ statement and urges it to be retracted. “This statement from a minister significantly undermines the government’s humanitarian message, by catering to the racist prejudices of those who see all Palestinians as terrorists and promising vigilance and distrust toward the very people whom we are trying to assist,” said Bueckert.

Finally, CJPME also takes serious objection to the role that Canada has given Israeli authorities in vetting the Palestinian family members who can take advantage of this program, as detailed in the statement from Minister Saks. “Israel is a belligerent occupying power which is killing and starving Palestinian civilians in Gaza,” asserts CJPME’s Bueckert. “Israel should have absolutely no role in deciding whose family members are allowed to leave, and who must stay and risk being killed.”

About CJPME – Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is a non-profit and secular organization bringing together men and women of all backgrounds who labour to see justice and peace take root again in the Middle East. Its mission is to empower decision-makers to view all sides with fairness and to promote the equitable and sustainable development of the region.

For more information, please contact: Michael Bueckert, VP CJPME: 613-315-7947 or [email protected].

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East www.cjpme.org

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