A Calgary man who is grieving the deaths of 17 members of his family is now facing more challenges as he tries to get his remaining sister out of Gaza.
Tamer Jarada says his pregnant sister, her husband and three children have been living in a tent made of plastic sheets and wood for three weeks.
He spoke with his sister Ashjan this week. He said she was in tears not knowing where she will be able to give birth next month.
“I honestly feel helpless. I’m trying my best. She was crying all the time during the call. She was literally begging me to help her,” Jarada said.
Jarada said his sister’s three children, aged 14, 12 and eight were all looking forward to school but now they just want to live in a place where they don’t have to fear for their lives.
“The only question that I get from them — they ask: ‘When are we going to be able to get to safety? When are we going to be able to get to Canada?’”
I always tell them: ‘I am doing my best to get you here. I’m doing my best to get you out of Gaza,’” Jarada said.
Seventeen members of Jarada’s family, including his parents and two sisters, were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza in October 2023 after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.
More than 22,800 Palestinians have been killed and more than 58,000 wounded, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.
He’s now trying to get his surviving sister Ashjan Abu Rabee, her husband and three kids to safety.
“One of the forms asks for social media accounts, addresses, phone numbers, all previous passports, all scars and injuries that you had before,” Jarada said.
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The program requires having a direct relative in Canada to sponsor refugees and cover their financial needs for up to a year after their arrival.
That statement has to be notarized.
“I think that’s incredibly unique. I personally have never seen any kind of sponsorship scenario where the sponsor needs to get documents notarized,” said Calgary immigration lawyer Jatin Shory.
The applicants also need to provide proof of their relationship, but getting government documents in a war situation is a challenge.
“They are making it nearly impossible for us to apply and to get our loved ones out of Gaza,” Jarada said.
When Ukrainians sought refuge from the war in Canada there was no cap of 1,000 applications. Mandatory connections to Canada weren’t required nor was some of the paper work.
Shory says the Ukrainian program showed that Canada has the capacity to move quickly to get people out of harm’s way.
“When it chooses not to, we can’t help but question why. Why are we choosing to go slowly or making it more of a hurdle here?
The background checks of Ukrainian families who were given these opportunities wasn’t that strict,” Shory said.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Canada created a special program granting free temporary visas to more than 936,000 Ukrainians, according to the latest figures.
“I have a PhD in computer science. I’m a data scientist and I find it very challenging to meet these requirements. What about Palestinian people who don’t have the qualifications I have? How are they going to get their applications filled and submitted to the government to get their loved ones out of Gaza? It’s near impossible,” Jarada said.
He’s calling it “pure discrimination” against people in Gaza.
“I can totally understand how someone would interpret this as as discriminatory to a certain population in the world,” Shory said. “It’s not to blame Ukrainians. They can’t control what happened. It simply clearly demonstrated at that time, we had a serious capacity to help move people out of tough situations, and since that time, with everything else that’s going on in the world, Canada has chosen not to step in and when it does, it’s not to the full extent they could.”
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says the new temporary resident pathway for extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents currently residing in Gaza takes into consideration the “volatility on the ground and the difficulty that Canada and like-minded countries are having in moving people from Gaza to Egypt.”
IRCC said it continues to be flexible as applications come in. Staff are now assessing the situation, including the volumes of applications received.
“Movement out of Gaza remains extremely challenging, and may not be possible as countries and other actors set their own entry and exit requirements,” reads a statement from IRCC spokesperson Matthew Krupovich.
“If people are able to exit Gaza, they will also need to complete admissibility requirements, including biometrics if applicable, in a third country before they can be approved to come to Canada.”
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