The Quebec government has granted imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi a selection certificate, a first step meant to speed up his immigration process.
"Quebec is behind Raif Badawi," said Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil, who used a special discretionary power to grant the certificate.
"His treatment is outrageous — it's cruel and unusual punishment," she said on Friday.
She made the announcement alongside members of other provincial political parties — a demonstration of non-partisan support for Badawi, she said.
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Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar and the couple's three children now live in Sherbrooke, Que., after escaping Saudi Arabia in 2012.
Haidar and her supporters have been pressuring the Canadian government to work to extricate Badawi from his current situation and allow him to join his family in Quebec.
Federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney on Friday said Canada will continue to pressure the Saudi government to release Badawi.
He said Quebec's selection certificate will help fast-track any possible steps taken to bring Badawi to Canada.
"This is an important development that will definitely facilitate the process, and we hope it will lead to a positive outcome," Blaney said.
Flogging delayed again
Meanwhile, Badawi has again avoided a flogging in Saudi Arabia.
The 31-year-old blogger imprisoned for criticizing Islam and promoting liberal thought via his website is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence. He is also supposed to receive 1,000 lashes delivered in batches of 50 over 20 weeks.
However, he was publicly flogged only once after receiving his sentence. Every other scheduled public flogging has been delayed, according to reports from Amnesty International.
This most recent postponement comes a few days after the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia upheld the sentence imposed on the blogger.
Badawi has been imprisoned since 2012 for criticisms in his blog that promotes human rights and democracy in his country.
Badawi's detention and sentence have stirred up worldwide condemnation. Quebec politicians unanimously adopted a motion in February calling for his immediate release.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also spoken out against Badawi's treatment, but has said Ottawa's influence is limited by the fact he is not a Canadian citizen.