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Trudeau Liberals to abandon hard cap on temporary visa program for Palestinians


The Trudeau Liberals are walking back their 1,000-person cap on temporary visas for displaced Gazans, according to government officials.

Earlier this month, Immigration Canada said it would close the queue upon receiving its first 1,000 applications. It would only reopen if spaces became available. 

The program, which opened on January 9, is now accepting visa applications from Canadians at a cost of $100 per applicant or $500 per family, reported Blacklock’s ReporterSuccessful parties, including cousins, in-laws and other extended family in Gaza must be financially cared for by their Canadian relatives, says the federal government.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) told CTV News it knew of requests by Canadian residents for “around 800 to 900” Gazans to join families here.

But Immigration Minister Marc Miller told the broadcaster the program would no longer have a hard cap, following considerable pressure from human rights groups and Canada’s Islamic lobby.

“It is conventional for a number of these programs to have an internal number that is established,” said Miller, noting his department introduced the 1,000-visa program “to manage flow, understand what the numbers are, and […] remain flexible on the fly.”

Palestinian Canadians and their advocates, including the NCCM and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, called the cap unfair and “inhumane.” 

“There should not be a cap,” said Uthman Quick, director of communications for the NCCM.

More than 23,000 Palestinians have died since Israel began its military campaign in October, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which is run by Hamas. Two-thirds of those casualties have been women and children, it says. 

Hundreds of thousands of others remain displaced to the south, reported the Canadian Press.

Advocates also noted that no cap existed at the height of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war for displaced Ukrainians. More than 210,000 Ukrainian refugees have come to Canada since 2022.

Grace Batchoun, the Palestinian-Canadian co-founder of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, called the visa program a “first step,” but condemned the “double standard” where Ukrainian refugees received different treatment. 

“We all see the double standards, we all see the hypocrisy, and it hurts us,” she said. “Why are we dealing with the Palestinians differently from how we dealt with the Ukrainians?”

Batchoun told CTV no competition should exist for visas granted for humanitarian reasons. “Like forcing people in Gaza to compete for those few visas, I find that it’s inhumane,” she added.

In response to criticism, Immigration Canada spokesperson Matthew Krupovich said, “The immigration responses are tailored to each different context to meet the unique needs of those who require our support.”

“Program intake caps and/or expiry dates are a standard practice in public policies,” he said. “We must see what the interest is, the approval numbers, and the ability to facilitate eligible family members to leave Gaza and reach a safe third country.”

Asked to comment, Miller said the comparison “is not appropriate.”

“In the case of Ukraine,” he said, “we had partner countries that were willing to do their fair share in resettling people and making sure that they had a safe temporary space outside of Ukraine.”

The minister noted that Canada still has “no sense” of what is happening on the ground with respect to Gaza.

He told reporters last month that great difficulties remain in securing safe passage for Canadian citizens from the contested territory, let alone their relatives.

No rescues will be undertaken unlike a 2006 war evacuation from Lebanon that cost more than $90 million, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

“Movement out of Gaza remains extremely challenging and may not be possible due to entry and exit requirements set by countries and other actors in the region,” the Department of Immigration said in a statement. “Applicants who are able to exit Gaza will also need to meet all admissibility requirements,” including fingerprinting and background checks, it said.

“We will require documentation in order to get to Canada,” Miller said December 21. “There will be a process just to get people out of Gaza which will be, knowing from experience, very intensive from a security perspective as well as the biometrics that will need to be performed in Cairo.”

There is also an extensive vetting system that will take place on the ground, he added when asked about threats to national security.

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