Checking visas

Where’s that story I wanted to comment on? Oh yes, here it is. What a bunch of xenophobic mouthbreathers:

Canada reinstated visa restrictions on the Czech Republic this week in hopes of discouraging immigration by Czech Gypsies, or Roma, after more than 1,200 arrived this year seeking protection as refugees.

Spurred by a positive television documentary about Canada, the Roma have asked for refugee status, claiming they were beaten up by skinheads and discriminated against by their government.

Most came in the last two months, straining social services in the Toronto area and taxing relations between Ottawa and Prague. Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard said in a statement earlier …

Wait a minute. “Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard“? Yes indeed. For this story comes to us from 1997, the first time Canada reversed itself on the Czech visa question.

Jason Kenney’s decision to slap visa requirements on Mexican visitors is an important decision that’s causing an uproar, and I don’t want to minimize it. But on Czech visas, Kenney has only done what his Liberal predecessors did more than a decade ago: remove visa requirements, hope for the best, and then reinstate visa requirements when optimism turned out to be misplaced. And on the broader question of visa requirements Europe-wide, it’s simply a fact that right now, today, Kenney and the Conservative government continue to run a far more liberal visa regime, so to speak, than the Liberals ever did. When Paul Martin became prime minister, Canada required visas from visiting Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians. Today that’s no longer the case (except for Poles and Slovaks who don’t have the most recent biometric passports).

I argued, in a 2005 column we can’t find because that’s just how Rogers rolls, that after the European Union enlargement of 2004 it was asinine for Canada to impose visas on some visitors from EU countries and not others. And I specifically argued that a government that rolled back visa requirements would reap electoral benefit for doing it, because those tens of millions of Europeans who’d benefit had millions of Canadian relatives who’d notice and appreciate the change. I even told readers to cut that page out of the magazine and mail it to their MP to encourage Parliament to make the change. Hundreds of readers did. It sure got noticed on Parliament Hill. And yet Joe Volpe didn’t lift a finger to relax visa requirements. Neither did Monte Solberg while he was immigration minister. Only Jason Kenney preferred action to inertia. And even today, it is easier for most Eastern and Central Europeans to visit Canada than it was before he got his job. Worth remembering.

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