On Saturday, May 25 Montrealers held a mass demonstration to protest the arbitrary closure of the Canadian immigration office in Havana.
Many of those participating brought forward the human dimension to the cold war politics being waged by Ottawa in line with the intensified US blockade of the socialist island republic.
The Trudeau government is using the US pretext of “a mysterious illness” affecting diplomatic staff in Havana.
Staff tweeted May 8th that they will no longer take applications for visitor visas and study/work permits, or conduct permanent residence interviews. Services including fingerprinting and medical exams now have to be done outside Cuba.
Families like Hélène Vachon and her stepdaughters are being penalized. All she wants is to have her stepdaughters move to Montreal to join her and her husband.
“It’s become a waste of time and money and energy and it’s… ” she told Global News, before trailing off, sighing.
“We cannot tell them, ‘Ok, go to this country and do that and come back to Cuba,’” she fumes. “We cannot do that — they are minors!”
One’s 15 years old, the other 17, so she or her husband need to travel to Cuba to accompany them to another country like Trinidad and Tobago, and not just once.
“One time for the biometrical (fingerprinting and photography), and one time for the medical exam,” Vachon explains. “That means taking time off work.”
Each time she does, she told Global News, it amounts to a $5,000 expense, and means the teens’ move to Canada will likely be delayed.
Along with family unification, another concern is how Quebec festivals that regularly invite Cuban artists might be affected.
“Like the Cuban festival in St Sauveur at the end of August,” says immigration consultant Johanne Boivin-Drapeau. “All those artists will need to go to Trinidad, too. I’m very scared.”