Good morning, Mr. Chair.
My name is Michel Dupuis, and I am the Acting Assistant Deputy Minister of Operations at the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. With me is Maia Welbourne, Acting Associate Assistant Deputy Minister of Strategic and Program Policy.
Thank you for the opportunity to tell you about this important matter concerning temporary suspension of removal for Haitian and Zimbabwean nationals in Canada.
For more than 10 years, Haitians and Zimbabweans have been allowed to stay in Canada due to unsafe conditions in their home countries. They benefited from what are known as temporary stays of removal or deportation. These are measures applied when people who would normally be removed from Canada are allowed to stay.
Temporary suspensions of removal for Haiti were in place beginning in 2004 and for Zimbabwe in 2002.
After a thorough review of country conditions and consultation with stakeholders, including non-government organizations, the former government decided to lift the temporary suspensions of removal to Haiti and Zimbabwe on December 1, 2014. Following this decision, about 3,200 Haitians and 300 Zimbabweans could have been subjected to removal from Canada.
Following the lifting of the temporary suspension of removal, the government allowed Haitian and Zimbabwean nationals, subject to removal order, to apply for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
The government gave affected individuals six additional months to stay in Canada. This was meant to allow them enough time to either return to their home countries or apply to stay in Canada on these humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Almost 2,200 people applied during the six-month period, between December 1, 2014, and June 1, 2015.
The government recognizes that many people from Haiti and Zimbabwe have been in Canada for a decade or more and they have developed ties here. Some continue to be worried about their future.
The government recently took steps to give these individuals another chance to permanently make Canada their home. Earlier this month, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness announced that the government was reinstating special measures for nationals of Haiti and Zimbabwe in Canada.
Effective February 4, Haitian and Zimbabwean nationals in Canada, who are out of status or under a removal order, including failed refugee claimants who may be subject to the 12-month bar from requesting humanitarian and compassionate considerations, have once again the opportunity to apply for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Applicants who meet the criteria and who apply for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds by August 4, 2016, will not be removed from Canada while their application is being processed.
Additionally, Haitian and Zimbabwean nationals, who had refugee claims pending before the reinstatement of special measures on February 4, will have six months to apply for humanitarian and compassionate consideration following a negative decision by the refugee protection division of the Immigration and Refugee Board.
These special measures give affected Haitian and Zimbabwean nationals the chance to continue to build their lives in Canada.
To protect the safety and security of Canadians, foreign nationals who are inadmissible and are subject to removal on the grounds of criminality, international or human rights violations, organized crime, or security will not benefit from these measures.
As of February 3, the government has received 1,700 applications for permanent residence under the previous special measures. These applications represent almost 2,200 people. So far, 742 applications, representing approximately 1,038 people, have been approved in principle on humanitarian and compassionate grounds for permanent residence. Only 67 applications have been refused.
This represents an acceptance rate of over 93% for this group. It is significantly higher than the average 40% acceptance rate that we usually find for applications for humanitarian and compassionate consideration.
The government continues to encourage affected individuals to apply so that they may have the chance to remain in Canada as permanent residents.