March 2008

Vol 7 - No. 9
























Migration | March 2008



With Respect to Visitor Visas
Canadians and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship

Hon. Jim Karygiannis P.C. 
Member of Parliament - Scarborough-Agincourt 

   This is in response to our request subsequent to Editorial titled: Two Kinds of Canadians in November 2007.

Only members of the First Nations can claim they are indigenous to Canada.  The rest of us all emigrated from somewhere, whether it was yesterday or our forefathers 400 years ago.

Canada is like a table - standing on four legs or pillars.  First pillar are the First Nations.  It is reported that they immigrated to Canada almost 15000 years ago by crossing the Bearing Straight and settling in North and South America.  Second and third pillars are the two founding nations, the French and the English, who arrived as explorers and first settled in this country.  The fourth pillar are new immigrants, people from, to name just a few, China, South Asia, the Eastern Europe, Italy and Greece, who came to Canada in the last century.

Every new wave of immigrants to Canada has faced challenges and discrimination.  As a new immigrant, I can attest to this as I faced difficulties and discrimination when I first came to Canada in 1966.  This problem, however, is not alleviated for new immigrants, as previous immigrants tend to forget the difficulties they faced when they first arrived.

Many a times you will hear the older immigrants say; "These new people have it so easy.  Boy, when I arrived we had such a hard time..."  It is a vicious cycle, which I hope, one day, will stop.

In the early 1970's, when the concept of multiculturalism was introduced in Canada, things got a little better.  However, we still have a long way to go.

There are some difficulties with people wanting to visit their relatives in Canada.  Canada, as other countries, has a Visitor Visa system which applies to some countries and not to others.  Some say that this is discriminatory and everyone should be treated equally.

There are two schools of thought on this matter.  The first - allow everyone to visit Canada and have no Visitor Visa restrictions.  The second - keep the system as is.

Let's examine both sides:

The first - allow everyone to visit Canada without Visitor Visa restrictions.  Those who support this option say open our borders and let everyone come to Canada.  Although this might seem the fair and right thing to do, it would create havoc and attract into our country people who will abuse the system and put our social safety net in jeopardy.  Even now when we have Visitor Visas, we still have a number of people who when they arrive in Canada try to jump the cue and claim refugee status.  Others stay in Canada, go underground and work illegally.  Allowing everyone to visit Canada without Visitor Visa restrictions would further open our immigration system abuse.  Many countries, whether developed or developing, place restrictions on people who want to cross their borders.
The second - keep the system as it is.  Many people, especially new immigrants, who have come to Canada from developing countries, find it almost impossible to invite their relatives to come to Canada, at the times of joy or sadness.  It is very unfortunate that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, many times, takes a heavy-handed approach to these applications.  In one case, I, as a Member of Parliament, made a representation on behalf of a woman who wanted to come to Canada to attend the funeral of her sister.  I was told by an Immigration official that the reason for the refusal was that they would rather "err on the side of Canada" and, therefore, keep the woman out.

It seems people have a short memory when it comes to remembering their hardships in Canada and usually do not believe that the new comers have the same if not steeper hardships.  Unfortunately, those who are currently complaining will be on the other side of the issue twenty years from now and will ask "Why are we letting these people in?"  The Minister of Immigration and Citizenship will again claim that officials are doing their best in order to have a fair system.

However, there appears to be inequity in issuing Visitor Visas to applicants from developed countries and developing countries.  Well it's time to act and ensure the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is held to account. 

Since the Conservatives became the government, it seems that there has been shift toward not allowing people from developing countries to obtain Visitor Visas for Canada.  The number of Visitor Visa refusals in many countries is alarming.  Regardless of the growing number of voices in favour of a fairer system the trend seems to continue.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration must review this matter and make a full report to Parliament.  The report must recommend changes that will reflect the diversity of Canada and the needs of new Canadians.

I intend, in the House of Commons, to recommend that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration review this matter.  I will be a forceful voice for change.  These changes will not only safeguard our way of life, but will respect the wishes and needs of new Canadians.

Unfortunately, this situation will not be rectified overnight.



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