Canada should relax sponsorship rules for the Bahamas like it did for Haiti in 2010

September 18th, 2019

The first day of September saw Hurricane Dorian wreak devastation in The Bahamas. So far 50 people have been confirmed dead, 1,300 people are missing, and 70,000 are reported homeless. The damage is estimated at US $7 billion. 

Canada has sent $500,000 to support the Canadian Red Cross in providing disaster relief to the victims. In addition, it deployed a Canadian Armed Forces’ Hercules aircraft to support the Jamaican Defence Force’s disaster response team. Consular support is also available for Canadians in the country.

So far, however, there has been no indication that Canada will relax sponsorship rules for Bahamians who have family in Canada. Bahamian-Canadians who want to bring their loved ones here are still expected to go through the regular Family Class procedures, which can be both lengthy and costly.

After the Haiti earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 200,000 people, Canada undertook several steps to facilitate the arrival and stay of Haitians in Canada. New sponsorship applications with the word “Haiti” written on the envelope were given priority consideration, as were pending applications. Adoption applications for Haitian children were also prioritized and Haitians who were already in Canada on temporary status could apply to extend their status in Canada and associated fees were waived.

Quebec, which has a large Haitian population, also widened the scope of who was eligible for sponsorship to include Haitian children over the age of 21, siblings, and their siblings’ spouses and children. The provincial government also relaxed financial sponsorship rules to allow co-sponsors.

I would like to see Canada display some consistency here. The fact a federal election is currently underway should not stand in the way of Canada’s obligation to help Bahamians with ties to Canada in their time of need.

To this end, Canada should implement measures similar to those introduced in the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010.

It’s not only necessary — it’s the right thing to do.

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