November 2007

Vol 7 - No. 5
 

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Editorial | November 2007

 


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Two Kinds of Canadians

BY SURESH JAURA (IDN) *

The Canadian passport looks the same for all -- until you open it. Once you do you will find two kinds of pictures; those of Canadian citizens that the Canadian government trusts, and those of Canadian citizens that the government does not. 

The difference is easy to spot, because it is shamefully crude. It's a difference in pigment. Given the rhetoric, you'd have thought that only the most outward manifestation of a variety and of a multiculturalism – not to mention equality – that Canadian leaders go on telling us that we celebrate. But the rhetoric begins increasingly to sound phony; not just because there is a difference between policy and practice, but because the policy is itself discriminatory. 
 

Ask a white Canadian who migrated from a non-“Asiatic” country the last time her or his relatives were denied a visit visa for a family celebration. Not one will have a story to tell. Ask an Indian or other non-white Canadians, and everyone does.  
 

“Asiatics” was a term used for those from the Indian sub-continent, China, Japan and also "Arabian, Armenian, Hindu, Syrian, Turkish..." immigrants.  
 

That a Canadian family of “Asiatic” origin – just as Canadian as anyone else supposedly – stands guarantee that a visiting relative will return is not good enough any more for grant of nothing more than a visitors visa. Never mind for a moment the visitor who then cannot visit. The government is really telling a section of its own citizens that it cannot trust them because they are a different colour. 
 

This is a policy stained with apartheid-like discrimination that more progressive countries than Canada, South Africa for instance, have abandoned. The Canadian government is practicing discrimination, and the Canadian government has institutionalised insult to its own citizens.  
 

A declaration on oath from some Canadians is not good enough for the government; other Canadians are seen to be so good that they are never asked to make such a declaration in the first place.  
 

The time has come, surely, to challenge the government politically, and to challenge its colour-divided policy legally. 
 

Nobody denies that immigration policies need to be in place. Canadian citizens of Indian origin need immigration controls to be in place just as much as anyone else. The problem is the policies that are put down in the name of such a need. That policy means that it's okay for one Canadian's sister to attend a family celebration, not for another. Not even if that other Canadian gives a guarantee on oath and provides all the financial documentation including tax assessment and bank statements. 
 

Some Canadians, that is, have a right to realize and nurture family relationships; others do not.  
 

Canada, a land of immigrants, in a limited manner, opened its borders to immigrants from non-Caucasian countries rather late. In 1951 agreements were signed with the governments of India, Pakistan and then Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) by which Canada agreed to allow in certain numbers of their citizens (over and above those eligible under the rules for "Asiatics").

 

It was left to Pierre Trudeau, as Prime Minister, during his first term April 20, 1968 to June 4, 1979, to open doors to immigrants from countries other than those in Europe, an act that has been hailed worldwide.

 

Despite the policy of multiculturalism and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the “Asiatics” (other than those from Japan) are still considered ‘second class’ citizens. In professional fields, their foreign credentials and job experience, based on which they were selected for immigrant visa in the first place, suddenly lose value on their landing here. Their credentials are not recognised.

 

Wherever they apply for a job, they are asked about their “Canadian experience” and most of them are denied a job because of lack of so-called Canadian experience. With very few exceptions, the employers do not seem to understand and realise that in the current global marketplace, experience in the so-called developing countries is, at times, more varied than in the segmented Canadian workplace. 
 

Once they land a job they must continue “proving” themselves, even though they may perform better than their Canadian-educated colleagues. There are of course some immigrants who do get a lucky break with open-minded employers, who understand and can benefit from the varied experience of the immigrants.

 

A few years after the immigrant has become a Canadian citizen, is he/she treated any better? Not necessarily. They are always reminded of their origin and roots whether they are travelling to their or their parents’ home country or within the country, or in North America.

 

Another decade goes by: they have established themselves, they are in business or have a job, own a house, their children have grown up and now they feel they can celebrate the happy occasions in their lives – like a silver wedding anniversary or the wedding of their offspring. They have forgotten their initial bad experience and decide to invite their relations and friends from back home to join them in the festivities.

 

To get a Visit Visa, referred to as Temporary Resident Visa by Canada Immigration, there are documents to be submitted by the invitee and also the invitor. For the invitor, who had migrated a couple of decades or prior to that from, say one of the “third world” countries including South Asian countries (previously known as  “Asiatic” countries), there are special requirements. They have to submit financial documentation, including Notice of Tax Assessment, Proof of employment and Proof of invitor’s existing funds.

 

It is interesting to note that if a relative or friend being sponsored is living in non-“Asiatic” country, the invitor does not have to submit similar set of documents.

 

The saga does not end here. Now all the documents are gathered by the invitor and his family members including affidavit to bear all expenses during the invitee’s stay in Canada, even commitment to repatriate the invitee if necessary, and sent to the invitee. The invitee, who has a solid job, approved leave to travel, funds to buy a ticket, money available for immediate expenses and the necessary documentation, makes the application. But getting the go-ahead from a Canadian Visa Officer is like getting a winning ticket in the lotto or hitting a jackpot at a casino.

 

Even if the invitee has previously travelled to U.K., Europe and other countries, the Canadian Visa Officer may end up deciding the person is ineligible to be admitted to Canada as the officer may not be satisfied that there are good reasons for the person to return home. The invitee may be travelling alone, with spouse or children.

 

Some of the possible reasons given: lack of travel history (sounds like lack of Canadian experience) even though the person has travelled to U.K., Europe and other countries previously; purpose of visit even though the anniversary or wedding invitations are attached with the documents, and the affidavits mention the purpose of travel; personal assets and financial status  – living in one’s own home and above average income and funds available to purchase a ticket and personal expenses is not considered enough. 
 

Is it only millonaires who can visit their relatives and friends in Canada?

 

Canada declares itself a developed country with due respect for law and procedure. Under any law, one is considered innocent unless proven guilty. But in the eyes of the Visa Officer, who quotes different Acts on the book, everybody, especially if they live in one of the “Asiatic” countries, and wish to visit Canada are considered to be potential asylum-seeking refugees.

 

Some Visa Officers, in their posts abroad, overwhelmed with shortage of staff and heavy workload, it is said, are delegating processing of applications to the local staff, who feel that since they are working in a foreign mission, their status and delegated authority can be exercised to the detriment of others.

 

How can we have ‘Asiatics’ migrate and become Canadian citizens and let them not have their relatives or friends to join them in the celebration of milestones in their lives just because all applicants are considered guilty (potential refugees) unless they prove themselves innocent?

  

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Copyright © Globalom Media 2007
Publisher and Managing Editor: Suresh Jaura
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