A group of Palestinians living in the GTA are appealing to the federal government to bring their relatives living in Gaza to Canada faster than standard immigration policies allow.
Abdallah Alhamadni, a local and permanent resident of Milton, says they hope Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will create a humanitarian pathway for Palestinians fleeing the war between Israel and Hamas, similar to those implemented for people fleeing of violence in places like Syria and Ukraine. .
“I have great hope, it is not impossible to achieve it,” Alhamadni said, adding that Canada has a reputation for helping people from around the world find safe refuge in the country during times of crisis.
“We would like to be treated equally.”
The Israeli siege of Gaza, launched after the October 7 cross-border attack on southern Israel by Hamas militants, has left the enclave’s 2.3 million residents without food, water, medicine and fuel.
Humanitarian aid was allowed into southern Gaza on Saturday for the first time after the Israeli army attacked northern Gaza and warned it would increase its attacks following the surprise infiltration of its borders by Hamas militants. A second convoy was heading to Gaza on Sunday.
An expected ground offensive is likely to lead to a dramatic escalation of casualties on both sides in urban fighting. According to the Israeli government, more than 1,400 people in Israel have died in the war (mostly civilians killed during the Hamas incursion). The Israeli army said on Saturday that at least 307 of its soldiers have been killed since October 7.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said on Saturday that the death toll in the enclave reached 4,385, while 13,561 people were injured.
Ahmad Abualjedian, a local and permanent resident of Brantford, Ontario, says his wife, who is expected to give birth to their daughter and first son sometime on Sunday, is still in Gaza along with her sisters and brothers.
He says he has already lost family members to violence and is worried about losing more, in addition to the stress he feels knowing his wife is having to give birth under such dire circumstances.
“People just live there, they have nothing to do with anything,” Abualjedian said.
“I lost my sister. Should I lose more to convince… humanity to help us?”
CBC Toronto reached out to IRCC for comment but did not receive a response at the time of publication.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated that Canada supports Israel’s right to self-defense, adding that international law must be respected in Gaza. More than 30 MPs (23 of them Liberals) wrote a letter to Trudeau asking him to advocate for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
The government last publicly announced it would commit funds to help Palestinian refugees in June. Global Affairs Canada announced funding of up to $100 million over four years for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, and an additional $3 million for the West Bank Emergency Appeal and Gaza.
The government has already set a precedent: immigration lawyer
Immigration lawyer Maureen Silcoff says policies that can help Palestinians come to Canada faster than usual is something the government has allowed other groups in the past.
“We’ve seen numerous public policies being created for Ukraine, Afghanistan, Sudan, Hong Kong, for a whole host of situations,” Silcoff said. “It is a matter for the minister to decide what would be appropriate in the circumstances.”
It could also consider extending visas and permits for Palestinians already here, waiving processing fees or expediting existing applications in the system for loved ones with relatives living in Canada, he said.
“It would remain consistent with past government policies, government-approved actions.”
Alhamadni says his family prepares for bad news at every turn. If something happened to her relatives abroad, she would feel “guilty” and “couldn’t protect them.”
“We cannot continue with our lives and we feel that we are divided into two parts,” Alhamadni said.
“We’re trying to raise our voice.”