Thursday, July 16, 2009

Visa requirements causing diplomatic tiff

The recent visa policy change by Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney has created quite a stir in the mainstream media and in government circles abroad. Predictably, Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae has charged the Conservative government with “mishandling” of the visa issue and claims doing so would hurt Canada’s trade ambitions with the European Union and its economic partnership in NAFTA with Mexico.

Perhaps one should not be surprised at the limits to Mr. Rae’s memory. He should be reminded that his own party under Jean Chrétien briefly ended visa requirements for Czech visitors in 1996, but hastily re-imposed the requirements after the immigration system became bogged down with asylum seekers. This is much the same as what happened after PM Stephen Harper’s Conservative government again lifted the visa requirement for the Czech republic in 2007 and asylum requests jumped from less than half a dozen in 2006 to almost 3,000. Just how short are politicians’ memories?

Visas, of course, are a very common method used by nations to control who enters their territory as visitors. In the case of the 27-member European Union, the Czech Republic is only one of several countries whose citizens require visas to visit Canada—others are Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Hungary.

Dozens of other friendly countries around the world are also on the list of those needing visas to visit Canada. The list includes such notables as Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Macedonia.

According to Mr. Rae:

“This latest diplomatic misstep can only harm Canada-EU free-trade negotiations and the upcoming security and prosperity summit with our NAFTA partners. It’s just another example of how the Conservatives are ruining our trade relationships, costing Canadian jobs, and further eroding our international reputation.”

Interesting. So Canada should just throw its doors open to anyone who is experiencing discrimination in their home countries so as to avoid harming free-trade negotiations? Minister Kenney is too smart to fall for that nonsense.

Canada apparently accepts refugee claims from every country on earth, including the United States, the United Kingdom and all members of the European Union. Is this not ridiculous? With such a policy, asylum quickly becomes a back-door to immigration.

In the politically-correct estimation of many, no country on earth can equal Canada for its lack of persecution of its citizens. Poppycock!

Most countries, including our own, practice discrimination in some form. Most Western democracies, however, do not practice persecution. Persecution, on the one hand, is a crime against humanity and when severe enough should lead to a successful refugee claim in most Western democracies. Discrimination, on the other hand, is an objectionable practice, but should not be grounds for a refugee claim, except in the most severe cases where persecution is also involved.

Discrimination should be dwelt with through normal immigration, if victims want to live elsewhere. In other words, apply and get in line. Queue-jumping penalizes true refugees, and the Lord knows the world has enough of them.

As to the European Union’s reaction to Canada’s decision. The EU has decided to welcome new members with very uneven practices towards certain ethnic groups—Roma in this case—and yet expects other countries to treat all members of their union equally.

The Roma are one of Europe’s most discriminated against minorities and there has been an alarming rise in attacks on Roma citizens in Central and Eastern Europe. This is something the EU should be addressing directly instead of exporting their “problem” to Canada. Why, for example, should any asylum requests have to be made to a third country, and not another of the 26 EU members.

Instead of addressing this grave injustice that is a moral blight in most of Central and Eastern Europe, the Czech government reacted by pompously recalling its ambassador to Canada, imposing visa requirements on Canadian diplomats and business travelers and calling for other EU member states to also bring in visa requirements for Canadians.

I hope this makes them feel better. It is a whole lot easier than rooting out the bigotry of many of their residents who treat all Roma like second-class citizens and human scum.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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  1. Great discussion of this asylum problem and thankyou for the history lesson regarding the Liberals and their policy towards the Czech Republic. I agree with you that the EU nations should address discrimination and not seek to export the Roma elsewhere. Sounds a little like pre WW11. The next time some superior European chides Canadians on Aboriginal issues, I think we should bring up how the Roma are treated in Europe. Cheers, Fern StAlbert

  2. The Czech Republic and the rest of Europe want to send Borat and his family to Canada.