Quebec grants Saudi blogger Raif Badawi immigration certificate
The Quebec government has officially given Raif Badawi an immigration certificate to come to Canada -- a first step in fast-tracking the jailed Saudi blogger’s immigration process.
Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil made the announcement on Thursday. She was joined by members of other provincial political parties in was she called a united demonstration of support for Badawi, who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes in Saudi Arabia.
The blogger’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, accepted the certificate on his behalf and thanked the Quebec government for its support. She also urged Quebecers to continue to be vocal about the issue.
Haidar and the couple's three children fled from Saudi Arabia in 2012 and now live in Sherbrooke, Que.
While the certificate is a symbolic gesture that will help speed up Badawi’s immigration to Canada, it can’t get him out of jail.
Quebec says that, for that to happen, the federal government has to be more involved.
“The (federal) government has to take the lead in this situation,” said Christine St-Pierre, Quebec’s International Relations Minister. “We are asking Prime Minister Harper to be the leader in this matter and ask his allies abroad to put pressure on the government of Saudi Arabia.”
Amnesty International says more than 160,000 Quebecers have sent letters to Ottawa urging the government to be more involved in Badawi’s case.
Last week, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said “Canada will continue to speak out against the Saudi government.” But Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the country’s power to help Badawi is limited because he isn’t a Canadian citizen.
Badawi, a Saudi writer and activist was first arrested in 2012 on several charges, the most serious of which was insulting Islam through his website, Free Saudi Liberals. In 2013, he was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. A year later, that sentence was increased to 10 years and 1,000 lashes.
Earlier this month, a Saudi court upheld his sentence despite widespread international pressure to pardon Badawi.
The blogger has only been flogged once so far. All of his other sessions have been postponed, but Badawi’s family says his morale remains low.
With files from CTV Montreal