BY JOHN MCCALLUM
Liberal Critic for Citizenship and Immigration, Multiculturalism and Seniors
ANYONE who has experience with Canada’s visa system knows how slow and bureaucratic the process can be. This is especially punishing for those looking to have close family members visit for important life events and for our tourism industry.
Other countries around the world are seizing on the flow of tourists from countries like India and China, streamlining their visa systems to be more competitive for tourism dollars. Canada, on the other hand, is dragging its feet and forcing applicants to jump through hoops in order to travel here to visit their families or tour our beautiful country.
The numbers don’t lie. Between 2000 and 2012 Canada experienced a drop of 18% in international arrivals, compared with growth in almost every other country. With the bulk of tourist growth coming from visa-requiring countries like China, India, Brazil and Mexico, visa headaches are costing the Canadian economy thousands of jobs every year.
The most frustrating part of this problem is the lack of clarity from the government on why applications are being rejected. My own constituency office faces this problem every day – virtually identical cases with different results. And the consequence is often heartbreaking when, for example, a grandparent from overseas is barred from attending a grandchild’s wedding in Canada.
It’s a question of attitude. Of course Canada has security concerns, but so do countries like the United States and Australia which have far more welcoming visa systems. Immigration policy needs a balance between vigilance and welcome. In recent years, our policy has become all vigilance and no welcome. This must change.