TORONTO - Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis urged people attending a church service Sunday to contact the prime minister to ask that their family members in Haiti be allowed to come to Canada without delay.
The small Church of God of Prophecy was overflowing with more than 100 parishioners - all members of Toronto's Haitian community - who are worried about their loved ones back home.
"There's nothing left in Haiti. There's no food, there's no homes, no hospitals," said Karygiannis.
"If you qualify to have your loved ones with you (in Canada)... I see no reason why they should be down there," he said.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Saturday the government will expedite immigration applications from Haitians with family in Canada, and Haitians already here temporarily can extend their stay.
But staff at the earthquake-damaged Canadian Embassy are focusing on helping Canadians. Visa and immigration services will resume when the situation permits, Kenney said.
Karygiannis admits the priority is on evacuating Canadians from Haiti.
But once that is done, he'd like Haitians already approved to move to Canada to board military planes that are dropping off aid and that would otherwise be returning empty.
"We've got to get those people out of there. These people want their families," said Karygiannis.
Haitians who qualify for family class sponsorship should be given a special permit to come to Canada and have their applications processed here, instead of them living on the streets of Haiti, Karygiannis said.
He estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people could qualify but said they wouldn't be a burden on taxpayers because they would be sponsored by family.
The church service featured hymns and prayers mostly in French and Creole.
Some parishioners said they hadn't yet reached their family by telephone in Haiti. Others have, only to find out someone they loved has died or been injured.
One of 14-year-old Mardochee Lavagesse's brothers, Jean-Marc, broke his leg in the quake in Port-au-Prince.
"He was in school when it happened and the building fell on his leg when he was trying to evacuate the building," said the Grade 9 student at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute.
Maramatha Auguste said she spoke to her mother in Leogane Saturday and found out her aunt, who was in her 80s and broke her leg in the earthquake, had just died.
There was nobody to treat her aunt at the hospital because there were too many patients there, she said.
Auguste said she's worried too much of the aid focus is on Port-au-Prince when people in other parts of the country also need help.