Montreal

Ottawa offers reprieve for hundreds of Haitian nationals stuck in limbo in Canada

The Canadian government's decision to temporarily halt deportations to Haiti has given some Haitian nationals living in Montreal under a removal order a glimmer of hope.

Canadian government's temporary deportation halt gives some under removal order glimmer of hope

Frantz André, who is with the Action Committee for People without Status, said the situation is very precarious for Haitians who have been told they will be deported. (CBC)

The Canadian government's decision to temporarily halt deportations to Haiti has given some Haitian nationals living in Montreal under a removal order a glimmer of hope.

Due to civil unrest in the country, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) offered a temporary reprieve for 421 Haitian nationals awaiting deportation last Friday. It did not indicate how long the moratorium might last. 

One man living in Montreal who had his Feb. 20 deportation stayed told CBC News that he has been working to send money back to his family still living in Haiti.

"I can't return to Haiti, that's one of the reasons I came to Canada," he said, speaking under the condition of anonymity.

The man crossed illegally into Canada from the United States in the summer of 2017.

He said returning to Haiti would cause him a lot of problems, and he's worried for his family's safety.

He hopes to stay in Canada and eventually bring his family here.

Frantz André, a representative from the Action Committee for People without Status in Montreal, said the temporary moratorium on deportation is a positive step, but he would like the government to offer a more long-term solution.

"This is not right. They're playing with people's lives," André said. "[People] don't know when they'll be going."

In 2018, the federal government rejected 1,555 refugee claims from Haitians and accepted 557.

There are another 6,811 claims still working their way through the system.

Montreal nurse returns home

Katherine O'Neil, a registered nurse from Montreal, returned home Monday night after a volunteering trip to a clinic in Petit Paradis, a town south of Port-au-Prince.

Her one-week commitment in the country ballooned to nearly twice that when the route between the compound she was staying in and the airport became blocked.

She was picked up by a helicopter and then brought back on an Air Canada flight.

Katherine O'Neil left Montreal Feb. 6. She was reunited with her family Monday night. (Alison Northcott/CBC)

The helicopter had a hard time finding the eight Canadian nurses.

O'Neil and members of her group waved bright clothes and flags to try to get the pilot's attention.  

"It felt like we were right out of an episode of Gilligan's Island," she said.

She added that the nurses were disappointed by the "inaction of the Canadian government."

But she was encouraged after meeting with a member of the Canadian embassy.

"They want to hear stories like ours, to take care of Canadians in events of natural disasters and unrest," she said.

With files from Claire Loewen

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