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Family reunion dreams shattered for Haitian Quebecers as province opts out of federal program

Click to play video: 'Haitian community reeling after Quebec government opts out of federal family reunification program'
Haitian community reeling after Quebec government opts out of federal family reunification program
WATCH: Quebecers of Haitian origin are confused and upset after the Quebec government decided to opt out of a federal family reunification program. The province is home to Canada’s largest Haitian community, and as Global’s Gloria Henriquez reports, advocates are calling out the province for playing politics. – Dec 1, 2023

Quebecers of Haitian origin are confused and upset after the Quebec government decided to opt out of a federal family reunification program.

Chef Paul Toussaint came to Canada from Haiti 16 years ago. He’s been living apart from his family ever since. When he learned that the federal government was going to allow Canadians like him to sponsor his relatives from Haiti, he was thrilled.

“It was my dream to bring my mom,” Toussaint said.

His plan: sponsor his mom and two sisters and employ them in one of his four restaurants in Montreal.

“My mom is a better cook than me you know,” Toussaint admitted with a smile.

But those plans were short lived. The Quebec government says it’s opting out of the federal program.

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“It was a nightmare for me,” Toussaint said.

Ottawa announced its family reunification program two weeks ago. The government is accepting up to 11,000 people from Haiti, Colombia, and Venezuela who have a Canadian family member willing to sponsor them.

Advocates say they’re baffled by Quebec’s decision to opt out.

“As the majority of the Haïti community lives in Quebec it seems really…. unbelievable that we were out of that program,” said Marjorie Villefranche, CEO of the Maison D’Haïti.

An estimated 165,000 Haitians live in Canada, most of them established in Quebec. Villefranche says she’s flooded with calls from people filled with sorrow. She wonders why would a government who claims it wants Francophone immigration, deny French-speaking Haitians an opportunity to come to Quebec at no cost to the province.

“It’s a political issue I would say,” Villefranche said.

At the National Assembly, opposition party Québec solidaire questioned the immigration minister on Quebec’s family reunification program. Quebec Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette says the province has reached its immigration thresholds.

“Our approach is balanced,” Fréchette said.

But for those like Chef Toussaint, the government’s attitude is cruel and insulting.

“It’s showing us immigrants are not that important, Haitians are not that important,” said Toussaint.

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Chef Toussaint hopes the Legault government reconsiders its stance so he can continue contributing to the province he calls home with his family by his side.

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