Help 3 Young Girls in Gaza War Zone Get to Their Ottawa Mom

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Ottawa aid worker, mother of 3, and Palestinian refugee Jihan Qunoo has desperately waited 2 years to reunite with her young girls (aged 6, 10 and 11), now stuck in Gaza following the trauma of the May attacks. The Canadian government must immediately issue temporary resident permits to rescue them from the daily terror that war could resume at any moment, and the long-term effects of separation from their mom, including major depressive disorder, severe asthma, anxiety, trouble eating, inconsolable crying fits, and having no one who can properly care for them (health challenges prevent both their father and grandmother from providing the care they need). Schools are closed, and e-learning is impossible with lack of internet and electricity. Jihan worries that there are no bomb shelters for the children to take cover if the bombing resumes.

The building next door to the girls was blown up last month, with 12 people killed. Their windows were blown out and the rooms filled with smoke. They were terrified.

Jihan is a hard-working, well-established Ottawa resident working both a full time job as well as additional part-time jobs to financially support her family in Gaza. But the stress of separation – especially now as the horror of war and its aftermath once again grips the area – is taking an incalculable toll, just as it would on any parent and any child. When Jihan called her children last month – Aleen, Mariam, Kenzi – she could  hear them crying from fear as bombs exploded in the background.

Issuing the girls Temporary Resident Permits would allow them to reunite with their mother in Canada, improve their physical and mental health, and provide them the time together they need to recover from two impossibly difficult years. It would also allow them the opportunity to enjoy much-needed safety until conditions considerably improve in Gaza and their family sponsorship application is expedited and completed. Without our help, they could wait up to 39 months, the average wait time for family reunification.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has the authority and discretion under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to grant these permits. This is a unique and exceptional situation, involving serious danger to the safety of three young girls in a war zone where, even absent the current escalation of military attacks, the devastating effects of a long-term blockade mean these girls do not have access to the educational, psychological, and medical services they need to address the significant trauma afflicting them at such a tender age.

Failure to act now will cause irreparable emotional and physical harm, set the kids back in their education, and impair their ability to grow up in a healthy and safe environment.

The Government of Canada has long been obligated to act in a humanitarian and compassionate manner in such cases given  “those facts, established by the evidence, which would excite in a reasonable [person] in a civilized community a desire to relieve the misfortunes of another” Chirwa v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) (1970), 4 IAC 338.

Canada is also obligated by both domestic and international commitments to act in a manner consistent with an approach “taking into account the best interests of a child directly affected.” Indeed, Article 3(1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child confirms “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” The Minister’s own guidelines point out that “factors relating to a child’s emotional, social, cultural and physical welfare should be taken into account when raised.”

Please issue Temporary Resident Permits immediately to Aleen, Mariam, Kenzi as well as to their father, Mohammed, immediately.

Thank you!

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