Canadians in Gaza Set to Return Home Starting Sunday, Says Global Affairs Canada

Palestinians wait to cross into Egypt at Rafah on Wednesday. (Fatima Shbair/The Canadian Press/AP)

Hundreds of Canadians and their families in Gaza have been given a ray of hope as Ottawa confirms imminent departure plans through Rafah crossing.

After weeks of uncertainty and growing frustration among those trapped by conflict, the Canadian government has received confirmation that Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and their families in the Gaza Strip will have the opportunity to depart, potentially as early as Sunday.

The news, coming from a reliable government source to Radio-Canada, states that evacuation is planned through the Rafah border crossing over a three-day window beginning Sunday. Despite the positive development, officials caution that the situation remains fluid and timelines could shift unexpectedly.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, who has been actively involved in negotiations, relayed through social media that both Israel and Egypt have assured cooperation in the evacuation efforts. Her announcement follows direct communications between Ottawa and nationals stuck in the volatile region.

Palestinians with dual nationality register to cross to Egypt on the Gaza Strip side of the border crossing in Rafah, Nov. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

“We have been informed that more than 400 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and eligible family members will be able to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing in the coming days, and possibly as early as Sunday,” stated a recent email from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) to registered Canadians in Gaza. This email, a copy of which was obtained by CBC News, also advised Canadians to be prepared for swift departure, keeping travel documents and important items at hand.

Acknowledging the unpredictable nature of the situation, GAC has reminded those awaiting departure that Canada has no control over who is allowed to enter Egypt from the Rafah crossing. Nevertheless, the ministry has positioned consular officials on the Egyptian side to facilitate transportation to Cairo and assist with subsequent travel to Canada, which will be at the evacuees’ own expense.

While in Cairo, the Canadian government has committed to covering the costs of bus transport, accommodations, meals, and other necessities. However, flights out of Egypt will not be funded, although emergency loans are being offered to those in need.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a media availability at the Embassy of Canada after the inaugural Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity summit in Washington on Friday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, addressing reporters in Washington, D.C., expressed the complexity of the situation and the government’s concerted efforts to ensure the safe return of Canadians. “We are working with our allies, with the Egyptians, with the Americans, and with everyone to try and get people out as quickly as possible,” Trudeau said.

The urgency for action has been underscored by recent successes in evacuating foreign nationals from other countries, with Canadians being conspicuously absent from the earlier lists of those permitted to leave. This delay has prompted intense efforts from Canadian officials, with Defence Minister Bill Blair stating, “Our foreign affairs minister has been in the region twice and she’s worked very extensively with all of the countries.”

The Palestinian General Authority for Crossings and Borders has been managing the issuance of names approved for departure, and with Canada’s inclusion, families may finally see a resolution to a harrowing month-long conflict that has claimed lives and left many injured.

In the wake of the hostilities between Israel and Hamas, the death toll has been staggering, with more than 9,000 Palestinians reported dead by the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, and a tragic loss of six Canadians during an attack on a music festival.

As families prepare for their imminent journey to safety, the Canadian government’s message is one of solidarity and commitment to its citizens abroad. Trudeau reassured, “We’ve been there from the very beginning for people leaving the West Bank, for people leaving Israel since October 7. We will continue to be there to help Canadians and their families get to safety.”

With the coordination efforts well underway, hope is on the horizon for the hundreds of Canadians awaiting their return from a region gripped by crisis.