The term “fast track” brings little comfort to Pierre Henry. A Haitian-Canadian he has waited almost two years now for the acceptance of his permanent resident’s application, in order to sponsor his mother from Haiti.
“I have not seen her in three years. Now after the earthquake I truly fear for her life,” Henry said.
Pierre Henry, 55, currently resides in Mississauga. He lost his father, grandfather and cousin in the earthquake; his mother and brother were pulled from the rubble of their own home.
Like other Haitians residing in Canada, Henry must remain patient until his case comes before a judge, but even that won’t guarantee permanent residency.
“Nobody knows what fast-track even means,” he said. “I called the immigration office in Toronto and they had no answer. They told me to call the office in Quebec.”
Immigration lawyer Joel Sandaluk, of Mamaan and Sandaluk, believes there is a misconception about the term fast-track; he said people don’t know how the immigration system works. He insisted Canadian officials are doing everything they can, but Haiti has only one tax office, one building to keep records and documents of Haitian citizens; it was destroyed in the quake.
“We are waiving laws such as medical background checks which can be done when they arrive in Canada, so in that aspect we are bending the laws to speed up the process, but having valid documents is one of the biggest necessities to get into a country, which is no longer an option,” he said.
Sandaluk does have faith in the system but admits there are certain flaws that can’t be ignored.
“On one hand Canada has greatly increased the (number) of immigration officers who work overtime every day to deal with the Haiti situation, on the other hand the system itself isn’t designed to let the good guys in, it’s designed to keep the bad guys out. This can cause massive delays especially with thousands of Haitians trying to seek asylum” he said.
According to immigration lawyer Julian Jubenville, also of Mamaan and Sandaluk, there are three major factors that can speed up a refugee claim; being under the age of 18; arriving with a relative (a parent or a child); or facing persecution based on race, gender, culture and beliefs.
This leaves Henry having to choose. Should Canada grant his permanent residency application in the next year, he can sponsor his mother to Canada, but not his brother.
“I love my mother, my father, my cousins, my sisters all the same. My family can never be whole again with these restrictions,” Henry said.
In the meantime, Henry spends every day fearing the worst and hoping for the best.
“The speed of the process is out of my control. All I have now are my thoughts and my prayers,” he said.