Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Quebec to expand sponsorship program for Haitians

Quebec will allow Haitian-Quebecers to sponsor a wider range of relatives as part of an expanded immigration policy.

Immigration Minister Yolande James says her government is changing the rules because of last month's devastating earthquake, and as a result the list of Haitians who can be sponsored now includes brothers and sisters and their families, and adult children.

Quebecers who do not have relatives in Haiti will also be allowed to act as co-sponsors.

"In the face of this terrible tragedy, our government has chosen to use its discretionary power to offer a concrete response," said James.

"It's a recognition to some of the requests coming from members of the Haitian community and to see a reunification of family take place in Quebec."

Families relieved

Savienne Charlot, whose three nephews in Haiti were orphaned by the earthquake, is relieved by the decision.

"I was going to go to Haiti next week to be with them, but now I will try to bring them here to live with me and my mother instead," said Charlot.


A maximum of 3,000 Haitians will be allowed into Canada under the sponsorship program, which will run from Feb. 17 until Dec. 31, 2010.

The magnitude-7.0 earthquake on Jan. 12 killed at least 150,000 people and demolished much of the capital of Port-au-Prince.

1 million people are homeless, many huddling in crude tents and bed sheets.

Previously, Haitians in Quebec who wanted to sponsor relatives could only bring in their own children, spouses, parents and grandparents.

Hotline

A 24-hour hotline has been set up to connect the public with registered immigration consultants.

The number is 1-877-311-7926.

Also on Wednesday Quebec said it would waive tuition fees and student fees for foreign students from Haiti for the winter semester.

The measure affects 350 students in Quebec, and will cost taxpayers about $1.3 million.