Ottawa

Ottawa woman to be reunited with family stuck in Gaza

After waiting two years to be reunited with her three young children living in Gaza, Ottawa mom Jihan Qunoo finally received welcome news from Canadian immigration officials Tuesday. 

'My dreams have come true,' said Jihan Qunoo, who hasn't seen her 3 kids in 2 years

Jihan Qunoo stands outside the prime minister's office on Monday, where she and about a dozen supporters went to deliver a petition demanding Qunoo's children be brought to Canada from Gaza. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

After waiting two years to be reunited with her three young children living in Gaza, Ottawa mom Jihan Qunoo finally received welcome news from Canadian immigration officials Tuesday. 

Canada's visa office in Amman, Jordan, notified the family's lawyer that immigration officials have approved temporary resident permits (TRPs) for the children and Qunoo's husband, allowing them to come to Canada as their applications for permanent resident status are being processed.

"It's over! Finally," said Qunoo, who came to Canada as a refugee. "It's a dream. My dreams have come true."

CBC has reported on the plight of the Qunoo children, ages 6, 10, and 12, who were living with their disabled grandmother in Gaza through the violence that shook the region last month.  

Qunoo said her children's mental health has been deteriorating as a result of that trauma. She said they've been unable to sleep at night, turning away food and showing signs of depression.

"For me as a mom, I needed to act," said Qunoo. 

Petition signed by 25,000

This week, Qunoo and about a dozen supporters, armed with a petition signed by 25,000 people, went to the offices of the prime minister and the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship to ask for urgent action to bring the children to Canada.

Qunoo was planning to fly to Egypt on Wednesday on a 45-day visa, and had arranged to have the children meet her there. She had no plan for what to do after the visa ran out, however.

On Monday night, a spokesperson for the minister's office told CBC officials would be reaching out to the family, and the next day, they did. 

"I had said there was no hope," Qunoo said, but then she thought: "No, no. This is Canada They will never leave your kids in danger."

Ottawa mom to be reunited with children in Gaza after two years apart

6 months ago
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Jihan Qunoo, who was accepted to Canada as a refugee two years ago, says her children — who were living in Gaza — have finally been issued temporary resident permits after violence broke out in the region last month. 0:42

Hugs in store

Qunoo said she still plans to travel to Egypt on Wednesday, and said she and her lawyer Jacqueline Bonisteel hope the process to bring the family to Canada only takes a few weeks. 

The first thing Qunoo plans to do when she's reunited with her kids after two years? "Hug them and stay hugging them for the whole night. We've been waiting for this moment since July 2019."

During the pandemic, family members applying to join accepted refugees in Canada have faced extraordinary delays, even in urgent cases. The Canadian Council for Refugees says a typical wait is now 39 months.

Bonisteel said it was about time for some positive news.

"Being an immigration lawyer during the pandemic has often been an exercise in frustration," she said. "It's the kind of good news story we all need to see right now." 

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