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Montrealers march against deportation of Haitians, Zimbabweans

MONTREAL – There’s less than 24 hours before thousands of Haitian and Zimbabwean families face possible deportation, but Montrealers insist they will stand up against the Canadian government and demand that these immigrants – many of them refugees – receive official status.

It’s an emotional day for Vanessa Vallejos, who’s husband is facing deportation back to the Dominican Republic.

“He has no family back home. There is no where for him to go back,” she told Global News.

“We don’t know where we’re going. We live day by day without knowing if he’s going to stay, if he’s going to leave.”

Protesters organized a march, which started at 2 p.m. Sunday on St-Michel between Jean Talon and Everett.

This isn’t the first time demonstrators have come together to protest the June 1 deadline for permanent residence applications – and they insist, if they’re not heard, it won’t be the last.

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“It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been here,” said Malek Yalaoui with Solidarity Without Borders.

“It doesn’t matter what your ties are here. It doesn’t matter if you have nothing to go back to.”

On Monday, protesters gathered in front of Immigration Canada and the Canadian Border Services Agency in Old Montreal to denounce the Federal Government’s lifting of a moratorium on deportations to Zimbabwe and Haiti.

“I do think it’s a shame, indeed, because it impacts the everyday living and lives of women, men and children,” said Kama La Mackerel, a protester.

The moratorium was lifted after the Government of Canada judged that the situations in those countries had improved sufficiently and no longer posed a risk to civilian populations living there.

Steven Blaney, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness lauded the courage of Zimbabweans and Haitians for recovering from the earthquake of 2010 and years of political instability but said that like other international allies it would lift the moratorium.

“Some bureaucrats in our government are turning a blind eye to these people’s lives and to their heartbreak,” said Yalaoui.

“They’re saying ‘we don’t care, get on a plane and go back home.'”

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The moratorium on deportations was announced in December 2014 and affected individuals were granted a six month period to apply for permanent residency on humanitarian grounds, with applicants being granted status on a case-by-case basis.

“This moratorium has been in place for years and people have built their lives here,” said Yalaoui.

“People have children here. People have families here. People have careers here.”

According to the Montreal-based Non-Status Action Committee, each application cost $550 per adult and $110 per child; a prohibitive amount for many migrant families.

“Through the act of actually taking up public space, taking up public space, we’ll be able to go ahead and talk about things that are important to us, things that matter to us,” insisted Mackerel.

Protester sits down in front of the Canadian Border Services Agency in Old Montreal. May 25, 2015. Sylvain Trudel / Global News

Montreal boasts a large Haitian community and estimates at least 3,000 people are affected by the measure.

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Rosalind Wong, a member of the Non-Status Action Committee told Global News that they want the government to allow every single person to stay in Canada based on a collective agreement and not on a case-by-case basis.

Though some are just trying to keep their families together.

“This is his home,” said Vallejos.

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

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