Amid violent protests and civil unrest, the Canadian Border Services Agency halted deportations to Haiti on Friday, offering a temporary reprieve for 421 Haitian nationals still under an enforceable removal order.
Unfortunately this reprieve came too late for Oberne Pierre, a Haitian asylum seeker whose claim was denied after a year of living in Quebec.
Pierre crossed into Quebec at Roxham Road in the summer of 2017, but his refugee claim was denied and he was deported in August 2018.
Canadian authorities determined there was not enough evidence to prove Pierre’s safety was « at risk » in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.
Oberne Pierre’s home, on the left side, doesn’t have clean drinking water or reliable electricity. (Radio-Canada/Laurence Martin)
Like hundreds of Haitian asylum seekers who were denied the right to stay in Canada, Pierre had to pack his bags.
Returning to the life he had before has been difficult, especially since getting a taste of what his life could have been.
« I’m very frustrated, » Pierre said, « but we must abide by the law. »
Pierre’s dream of finding a better future in Canada is over, but he says his nightmare in Haiti is all too real.
« Haiti isn’t a life. People who live in Haiti, I don’t know, but for me it’s hell. We’re living in hell. »
He told Radio-Canada that it’s been difficult to access even the most basic services, and finding clean drinking water has been a challenge.
« It’s been three days now that I haven’t found water, » he said, adding that his family only has access to limited electricity and sometimes goes days without it.
The water shortage is affecting millions of Haitians and is linked to the protests. Roadblocks make deliveries of gas to pumping stations impossible, and the government has been using petroleum imports as leverage to try and quell the demonstrations.
« It’s thanks to the grace of God I’m still living. Because I have nothing. No work, nothing at all, » he said.
He lives in a tiny home with a kitchen and bedroom in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince.
Oberne Pierre said he wants to make a better life for his eight-year-old Tanorah. (Radio-Canada/Laurence Martin)
While living in Quebec, waiting for news about his claim, Pierre worked for a temp agency in Laval and sent money home to his wife and daughter.
Now, he says his hope lies with his eight-year-old daughter Tanorah, who stayed behind with his wife in Haiti while Pierre attempted to claim asylum in Canada.
« I’m going to fight so her future doesn’t happen in Haiti, » he said.
Frantz André, a Montrealer who has been helping many Haitian asylum seekers through the Action Committee for People Without Status, worked on Pierre’s case and got to know him before the deportation.
André described him as « a gentleman, » saying that « he was the hope of the family since he came here. »
He said taking Pierre to the airport on the day he had to leave was « really painful » and the two still keep in touch every week.
« I’ve called everybody that I know in Haiti who could perhaps give him a job. » said André. « Right now he has not a penny to his name. »
Frantz André advocates on behalf of Haitian asylum seekers in Montreal. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)
André said that Haitian asylum seekers currently make up the largest proportion of those being deported from Canada.
He said it’s hypocritical that Canada has closed its embassy in Haiti and is advising Canadians not to travel there, but continued deporting people up until Feb. 15.
« Suddenly, because we have a 113 Canadians that are stuck in a hotel, they suddenly have to realize, ‘Okay we better put a moratorium.' »
The CBSA told CBC in an email Sunday that officials are « aware of the situation in Haiti and its impact on persons facing removal » and that the temporary stay on deportations is in effect until further notice.