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 pigmentation. 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 phoney; 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.
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. 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 invitors 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 invitees 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, or 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 ones own home and above average income and funds available to purchase a ticket and personal expenses is not considered enough.
Is it only millionaires 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?
Suresh Jaura, a CEMA member, is freelance writer based in Toronto. He is President (North America) of Globalom Media, publisher and editor of two electronic monthly productions: South Asian Outlook and Indo-Canada Outlook; and producer of South Asian Web TV programme. He can be reached at [email protected]