Getting the spouse of a Canadian permanent resident out of Gaza required the threat of a lawsuit, according to emails between a lawyer and Canadian officials seen by Breaking:. This after Ottawa told her wife that she could not leave the besieged territory without being accompanied by her husband, who is in Vancouver.
Randall Cohn is a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer whose client’s spouse is Palestinian and lives in Gaza. She was waiting for a visa to live with her husband in Canada when the war broke out.
When Global Affairs Canada (GAC) announced on October 11 that Canada would work to remove people from Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, Cohn’s client attempted to register his spouse on the evacuation list, since spouses of permanent residents Canadians were eligible.
But registration was denied on October 16 by a representative of the Emergency Surveillance and Response Center (EWRC), the emergency consular branch of the GAC, who told Cohn’s client via email that the flights are only offered to non-residents. citizens and those who do not have permanent residence. residence if they are “accompanied by an immediate family member” who is a citizen or permanent resident.
“They were basically adding an additional requirement that they had to be with their person, and that was not the way it was described in the press release,” Cohn said.
He followed up with GAC on behalf of his client the same day via email and noted that the policy contained in GAC’s press statement did not exclude immediate family members from the evacuation list based on whether they were traveling with a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident. He also requested that his client’s request “be processed immediately and without prejudice.”
The agency confirmed receipt of his message, but did not respond to his request. Cohn then filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court of Canada seeking judicial review of the denial.
A few days later, he confirmed that his client’s spouse had been placed on the evacuation list and withdrew his claim. According to Cohn, not only was she added to the list, but she was also in the first cohort of 75 Canadians and family members allowed to leave Gaza on November 7. She is now safe in Canada with her husband.
Cohn says his client’s experience indicates a problem with how the GAC selects evacuees, especially considering that not everyone has access to an attorney.
“I’m glad to know I can help my client, but I’m worried knowing I had to help my client,” Cohn said. “I don’t know at this point if others who were in your situation… [are] be on the list fairly.
In another similar case, the wife and newborn baby of Ahmad Abualjedian, a Canadian permanent resident, were initially denied evacuation assistance out of Gaza, but were added to the list and he did it days after a CBC news segment aired about the family’s plight.
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada told CBC they are “not aware of any lawsuits or media coverage” that influenced the evacuation list.
“We collect the names of people in Canada who are eligible. We give their names to the relevant authorities in the region, which includes Egypt and Israel,” the spokesperson told CBC. “They are the ones who decide who leaves each day.”
The spokesman said official policy since the start of the war is that Gaza evacuees “do not have to be accompanied by the citizen or permanent resident to be on the list.” They said they don’t know how many people were told this is a requirement.
“For privacy reasons, [GAC] “I cannot comment on individual cases,” they said.
So far, 356 people on Canada’s evacuation list have managed to cross the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, according to the latest GAC update, with the largest contingent of 232 people evacuated on November 12.
‘Go buy a ticket’
Like thousands of people in Gaza over the past month, Cohn says her client’s family’s home was bombed and her client’s spouse was injured when a building was hit near where she and her family were taking shelter.
The war in the region was sparked by an unprecedented attack by Hamas against Israelis on October 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage, according to the Israeli government.
Israel has responded with a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip and constant shelling for more than a month, including hospitals and refugee camps, along with a ground offensive. According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, 11,240 people have died so far, including more than 4,600 children.
Cohn also noted a discrepancy between how Canada evacuated people from Israel with government sponsored flights, but those traveling to Canada from Cairo are instructed to do so at their own expense. Authorities have given Gaza evacuees three days to stay in Egypt before having to move to their final destinations.
For those who cannot afford to pay for flights after leaving the war zone in Gaza, GAC says it offers “financial assistance” in the form of private fund transfers and emergency loans, as well as connections to organizations that can help. people to continue traveling.
According to the GAC spokesperson, the Israeli evacuees were flown to Athens on sponsored flights, after which they had to pay for their own travel. For Gaza evacuees, the GAC says Canada sponsors their bus trip from Rafah to Cairo and pays for their accommodation in Cairo.
“On one hand they tell them, ‘You have to leave Egypt in 72 hours,’ and on the other, ‘Go buy a ticket,'” Cohn said. “I know that $1,500 is the going rate, roughly, for a flight from Cairo to Vancouver.”
Abandoned parents and siblings
Currently, close family members, such as parents and siblings of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, are not eligible for evacuation from Gaza. GAC says these rules are part of the federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
These eligibility requirements have led Canadians and permanent residents at the Rafah border crossing to have to make impossible decisions to leave family members behind in a region where even hospitals are besieged by gunfire.
Mohammed Sharif Alghusain, a Canadian in Gaza, was one of the first to evacuate with his wife and two daughters last week, but he also had to leave his parents and sister behind.
Alghusain and his immediate family are now in Canada. She told Rosemary Barton Live on Sunday that the family made the decision to leave because her seven-year-old daughter has diabetes and her life was at risk.
“I’m saving my daughters, but I’m leaving my parents behind,” Alghusain said. “They’re old and they need my help… it’s the worst decision anyone can make.”
Alghusain said he spoke to several Canadian officials to try to get his parents out of Gaza, but got nowhere.
Cohn said his client and his wife have parents and relatives in Gaza who are not eligible to leave the war-torn region. Cohn said he has spoken to several Palestinian-Canadians who are also trying to get their relatives out of Gaza.
In a Nov. 7 interview with CBC, Canadian International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said, “there are always reflections on what more we can do,” when asked whether Canada should allow parents and siblings of Canadians and residents permanent residents are on the evacuation list.
“Adding them to the list… means saving their lives,” Alghusain said. “It’s as simple as that.”