Email Immigration Minister: Remove racist limit of 1000 for Gaza family reunification

Late in December, Immigration Minister Marc Miller promised that Canada would offer a 3-year temporary residence visa to the extended family members of Canadians stuck in Gaza. However, when the government released details last week, the program was set to limit the total number of applicants to 1000. Compared to the 616,000 Ukrainian individuals who accepted similar visas in 2022, this arbitrary cap is racist and inhumane. What’s more, Minister of Mental Health Ya’ara Saks, has suggested that this demeaning immigration measure is a response to security “threats” associated with an influx from Gaza. Worse, Canada has invited Israel to help vet visa applicants. Ultimately, the program for Gaza, as implemented, is offensive and racist. (See below for more info). 

Use the fields below to demand that the Canadian government allow unlimited family reunification visas for Gaza and end the other racist aspects of this inhumane program. Your email will be sent to your own MP, Immigration Minister Marc Miller, the Prime Minister, and other relevant government officials.

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On December 21, 2023, 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, on a “first come, first served” basis. Some have suggested that this will create a tragic race among Palestinian-Canadian families for visa spots once the program opens on January 9.

This quota on Palestinian family members from Gaza is unfairly small and completely arbitrary. Instead of imposing these limits on who is deserving of safety, Canada should be maximizing its humanitarian response to the genocide in Gaza by supporting friends and family of Palestinian-Canadians.

The racist nature of the cap is exemplified in the immigration measure’s asymmetry with Canada’s emergency travel measures for Ukrainians following Russia’s invasion in 2022. That program, which similarly provided 3-year temporary status, imposed no cap on applications, and at least 616,000 individuals were approved. (Proportionately, based on relative population sizes, this would work out to about 30,000 from Gaza.) The government also provided financial support and up to two weeks of temporary accommodations to Ukrainian applicants – 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.

Standing in sharp contrast are the measures implemented for only 1,000 family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents in Gaza.

Some Canadian officials have revealed that this immigration measure has been crafted in response to perceived “security concerns” associated with an influx of refugees from Gaza. 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.”

Saks’ comments about Israel “reviewing” the visa applications are deeply troubling. As the belligerent occupying power, accused of imposing an apartheid system on Palestinians, Israel should have no role in deciding whose family members are allowed to leave, and who must stay, and risk being killed.

After her 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.” This racist statement undermines the Canadian government’s humanitarian message and perpetuates the prejudices of those who see Palestinians as dangerous.