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Advocating for Sudanese Canadians

I have met with Sudanese Canadians in my constituency, and also raised this matter in the House of Commons. Families with relatives still stuck in Sudan need Canada’s help, similar to what was offered to Ukrainians in an emergency, life-threatening situation. Here is a story from The Hill Times.

Sudanese Canadians looking for feds to step up, say MPs

The Hill Times – May 9, 2023

As the fighting continues in Sudan, MPs with Sudanese Canadians in their ridings say their constituents are reporting feeling ignored and confused as they attempt to navigate the federal government’s response to the conflict.

Calgary-Currie MLA Nicholas Milliken and I met with Sudanese Canadians from Calgary Centre to discuss how we could assist them in helping their relatives still stranded in Sudan.

In an interview with The Hill Times, Conservative MP Greg McLean (Calgary Centre, Alta.) said many of his Sudanese constituents still have family in Sudan. He said he spoke to a number of them over the weekend who said they feel the federal government has turned a blind eye to the conflict in the East-African nation.

McLean said those constituents compared themselves and the support they’ve received to the support Ukrainians have received in the face of Russia’s invasion of their country.

“They want the same consideration as far as getting people over [to Canada] as quickly as possible,” said McLean. “This is an emergency. People’s lives are at stake.”

Canadians who are still in Sudan are losing hope in the government restoring its evacuation process, said Kon K. Madut, a part-time political studies professor at the University of Ottawa who emigrated from Wau, South Sudan.

“So far, everybody’s just trying their best to get out of the country on their own,” said Madut. “They’ve kind of given up that the rescue mission will resume.”

After the April 15 outset of fighting in Khartoum between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, Canada conducted six evacuation flights of roughly 550 people from the Wadi Seidna airfield before calling off the mission on April 30.

“While the Government of Canada evacuation flights have ended, we remain concerned by the unfolding political and humanitarian crisis,” Global Affairs Canada said in a May 5 update. “This will require a long-term response by the international community. Canada will actively work with the people of Sudan, international organizations, regional partners and allies to address the situation.”

The mid-April escalation in the Sudanese capital wasn’t the start of this issue, noted Liberal MP Arielle Kayabaga (London West, Ont.).

“I know we’re talking about this now because there’s a crisis, but prior to this conflict, this is a conversation that I personally have had with the Sudanese community on the role that Canada can play to support Sudan because this has been ongoing,” said Kayabaga. “It’s at its peak right now, but it’s been ongoing.”

In a written statement to The Hill Times, Liberal MP Charles Sousa (Mississauga-Lakeshore, Ont.) said his office has been in “close” contact with his constituents who have been affected by the conflict in Sudan.

“We have met with residents who were evacuated from Khartoum, and those with family in Sudan,” said Sousa. “They expressed that their loved ones are in urgent need of help to escape Sudan, and their desire to come to Canada.”

McLean said he asked Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly (Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Que.) during the emergency House of Commons debate April 25 to speed up the process of letting family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents into the country. McLean said he also spoke about the matter personally with Immigration Minister Sean Fraser (Central Nova, N.S.).

While McLean said both ministers responded favourably to his request and are looking into it, he said the government needs to move quickly, especially in exceptional circumstances such as the conflict in Sudan.

“The government has to understand that lives are at risk, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re processing these [applications] as quickly as possible and getting these done,” said McLean. “And I know it is work and I know that there are protocols we have to go through.”

McLean added that many of his constituents have said they are getting conflicting information from federal departments about the process of bringing their loved ones to Canada.

“A woman whose husband she’s trying to bring over, she’s getting conflicting information from different officers at IRCC [Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada] and Global Affairs,” said McLean. “So, we do need to make sure we get some well-trained people processing these applications as efficiently and quickly as possible.”

The government is waiving temporary residence application fees for “foreign nationals who fled Sudan with their Canadian family members,” according to Global Affairs. “Once they have arrived in Canada, they will be able to apply for an open work permit or study permit, and permanent residence under the family class, all free of charge.”

Kayabaga said she’s been a “bridge” between her community members and the government. She said she’s been getting information from her Sudanese constituents, such as names, passports, and information about family members who are still in Sudan.

“We’ve just really been getting their information,” said Kayabaga. “They’re sharing it with [Global Affairs Canada] and making sure that their needs are not left behind. [And we’re] double checking to see if they’re communicating within their community, as well.”

Kayabaga added that some Sudanese community members want to have conversations on how the federal government can play a bigger role in the Sudanese region in terms of peace talks and ceasefire.

“They’re broken, they’re heartbroken,” said Kayabaga. “Because it’s their country, it’s the place of their birth and then they’re being displaced. Women are being killed, children are being displaced. They’re not happy. But they’re here.”

‘We should be able to move quickly’: McLean

McLean said it’s an MP’s job to examine humanitarian crises that are happening worldwide and “get ahead of the matter before we’re caught behind it.”

“We should be able to move quickly, and I think that’s something that perhaps is missing from the government’s action agenda right now, is the ability to move quickly when we have to respond to these international emergencies,” said McLean.

“[We need to] put Canada back on the forefront of where we need to be in providing humanitarian assistance and serving a very beneficial role on the world stage.”

Madut said he thinks the federal government has done what it could to help Sudanese Canadians leave Sudan and come to Canada. He also said it is not only Canada that has suspended its rescue mission, but “everybody” has too.

“Canadians have done their best,” said Madut. “Logistically it’s difficult. There is no one side now that could claim control over the capital city so that the Canadian diplomatic power can negotiate with one of the generals if they have absolute control over the airport.”

Madut added that the conflict in Sudan is a situation that “needs to be done in wisdom rather than blame.”

Kayabaga said she has continued to encourage people to reach out to their communities and MPs to ensure that they receive and feel support.

“I myself have been displaced. I know what it’s like to be displaced because of a war and the best that anyone could do is really be there for people when they need it most.”

The Hill Times

External Link:

Petition Tabled in the House of Commons

On 15 May 2023, I tabled in the House of Commons a Petition calling upon the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to fast track processing of immigration files of Sudanese residents who wish to immigrate to Canada, in particular those who have family who are Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents.

Related Material

You can consult the Official Hansard transcript.

You can consult the Government Response to this petition tabled on 19 July 2023.

Second Petition tabled in House of Commons

On September 27, 2023 I tabled another petition in the House of Commons calling for more action by the Government of Canada.

Related Material

Consult the Official Hansard Transcript.

View the Government Response to this petiton.