The Canadian visa issue
June 16, 2023
The Canadian visa issue

The recently announced step by the government of Canada to provide a more reasonable travel regime for the citizens of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and 12 other countries to enter Canada on a non-immigrant basis is welcomed.

The new regime, announced by Canadian Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, eases the visa restrictions in force over the last 11 years whereby prospective visitors to Canada from SVG were required to obtain visas, going through a rigorous process. Before these restrictions, visitors from our country enjoyed visa-free entry into Canadian ports of entry.

The 2012 restrictions had caused much consternation among prospective travelers to Canada. Vincentians had not only for a long time been permitted visa-free access to Canada, but many had become Canadian citizens, making valuable contribution to the development of Canada in different fields of endeavour. The lifting of those restrictions must surely be very much appreciated by Vincentians at home and the Vincentian immigrant community in Canada.

It will also be welcomed by those involved in the travel industry, both here in SVG and in Canada since the new arrangements apply only to persons arriving in that country by air. In particular Air Canada which has been trying to regulate flights to and from St Vincent and the Grenadines, will no doubt expect more bookings from this country since it is estimated that an estimated 10,000 persons will be covered by the new travel arrangements. More incoming flights will also boost our tourism.

With this in mind, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, while welcoming the new arrangements is still appealing to Canadian authorities to “give us the whole hog”, in other words, revert to the original visa-free regime in force before 2012. The 2012 restrictions had reportedly come about because of immigration violations by some travellers from SVG and false asylum claims.

This brings to light another aspect of this Canada immigration saga. When the restrictions were put in place there were Vincentians, here at home and in Canada, who had embarked on an Internet campaign advancing spurious theories that the restrictions placed on us by Canada were our own fault and by extension blaming the government for it. Ironically, some of these people were among those who had been advising persons who were falsely claiming asylum status, on the basis of “persecution” and “discrimination” here at home.

It brings to light the role that disinformation can play in causing discord and misleading people and also exposes the lack of patriotism of those who would, wittingly or unwittingly, cause SVG and its people to suffer to serve their own nefarious ends.