There are journalists and there are prophets, and David Halberstam
(1934-2007) was one who used the horizon rather that his rear-view
mirror to drive his writing. In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, he
foretold the following: “When we show up at hotels or airports, we do
not have to lug with us all kinds of documentation to prove that we are
who we say we are; that has to be a curious kind of privilege, and it
is going to be more difficult to preserve in the future.”
I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s a big deal. While it is prudent to carry ID cards and other pieces of identification, I prefer it when people take me at my word.
I have been pleasantly surprised
that Canada, generally, continues to be a nation where this is still
possible, although with such a finicky neighbour to our south, this
privilege continues to erode over time. Corruption, of course, makes
the documents themselves suspect.
It is in this context that I read about Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s remarks about a “developing industry” in India that is compromising the visa process. India is, after all, one of Canada’s largest source nation for immigrants and a major world power. On a recent visit, the minister was appalled that people were willing to swear by anything, submit phony documents, lie through their teeth and make up university certificates and medical histories — all with a view to landing in Canada.
may have come as news to Kenney, but for anybody with even a passing
acquaintance of India or the Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire,
it is part of the mystique that envelops the country.
According to news accounts, the minister was particularly dismayed at the level of corruption in Chandigarh — a Canadian mission that was opened in 2004 — with an astounding rejection rate of 56 per cent for visitor and student visas. And let’s not kid ourselves: if this is happening with “temporary residency” visas, it is also happening with immigrant visas. Artists who specialize in producing documents to order do not discriminate between those who want to come to Canada for a few months and those who want to eventually become citizens of the True North.
While calling on the local government to crack down on these scam artists, Kenney wondered aloud about how these shortcuts are affecting genuine applicants. “[T]hese document vendors and unscrupulous consultants are undermining the chances of legitimate visitors and immigrants to get to Canada … We want legitimate law-abiding people who qualify to be visitors to immigrate with as little trouble as possible. Those who engage in this kind of fraud clog up the system.”
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has obviously gotten better at detecting fraud, just as their American counterpart, which recently discovered that only 20 per cent of those claiming to be relatives of refugees who were admitted to the United States were, in fact, from the same family. They confirmed this using DNA tests, and as a consequence shut down the refugee family reunification programs in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Gambia.
Canada would be shooting itself in the foot if it were to shut down its visa offices in India. But it should also be worrying about how it can minimize the number of hoops that honest people have to jump through to get to Canada. Every hurdle is one too many.