Montreal

Rally calls on Canada to reissue moratorium on deportations to Haiti

Demonstrators gathered outside the Canadian Border Services Agency office in downtown Montreal today, calling Canada to re-issue a moratorium on deportations to Haiti as political instability and violence in the ailing country persists.

Advocates say Haitian asylum seekers being deported at higher rate than before

Demonstrators held a rally in protest of deporting asylum seekers to Haiti during political instability outside Canadian Border Services Agency offices in downtown Montreal. (CBC)

Demonstrators gathered outside the Canadian Border Services Agency office in downtown Montreal today, calling Canada to re-issue a moratorium on deportations to Haiti as political instability and violence in the ailing country persists. 

Haitian community members and activists working on behalf of asylum seekers say a large proportion of them are being removed from Canada, even as a travel warning was issued.

"The government said that Canadians should not travel to Haiti. So, if it's not safe for Canadians, it is not safe to deport people to Haiti," said Jennie-Laure Sully, one of the rally's organizers. 

Several dozen gathered in front of the federal office on St-Antoine Street, decrying the deportations and calling on the government to open its border to asylum seekers. 

Long-term solution needed: advocates

"We think that going on a case by case basis is not the way to deal with this problem," Sully said. "This is a collective problem."

Jennie-Laure Sully, who helped organize the rally, says Haitian asylum seekers are being deported at a higher rate than before. (CBC)

Hundreds of Haitian nationals have crossed the border by foot outside of official crossings, a majority of them at Roxham Road in Lacolle, Que., since last year. 

Many were prompted by their temporary protected status being removed by President Donald Trump in the United States.

Canada had its own version of what Americans call "TPS," issued after instability in 2004 and reinstated after the 2010 earthquake. The federal government lifted the moratorium in 2016, but many were able to apply to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. 

But things are bad enough in Haiti once again for another moratorium, advocates at the rally said. 

'Anguish' gripping asylum seekers

Sully said they are also concerned about the low retention rate of the Haitian asylum seekers who've crossed in the past year. 

Before the influx, the average rate of Haitian migrants' asylum claims being accepted was of 50 per cent. Since then, Sully says she's heard it's dropped to below 20 per cent. 

"The anguish is killing these people," said Frantz André of the Action committee for people without status. "We want to say the Canadian government is not being fair."

Frantz André, an advocate for asylum seekers in Montreal, says Haitian migrants are terrified of being deported back to Haiti as political protests continue to roil the country. (CBC)

An asylum seeker CBC spoke with, who wished to remain anonymous because of fear for his safety would he have to return to Haiti. 

The man said "returning to Haiti is returning to hell." He said life there was so difficult he barely had the means to survive as he and his family faced political threats. 

"It's like night and day," he said of finding refuge in Montreal while he waits for his asylum claim to be reviewed.

With files from CBC reporter Valeria Cori-Manocchio

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