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Canada ‘apologises’; assures visa policy review
Toronto, May 28 (Agencies):
Published on 28 May. 2010 9:50 PM IST
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Regretting the use of language that “cast false impressions” while refusing visas to former or serving members of Indian armed forces and security institutions, Canada has assured that it is reviewing the admissibility policy.
This followed a belated but sharp Indian reaction upon Canadian authorities for citing reasons such as human rights violation while declining visas to Indians, who were or are associated with security and intelligence organisations.
In a statement aimed at assuaging Indian sentiments, Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney deeply regretted the incident in which letters drafted by his consular officials during routine visa refusals cast “false aspersions” on the legitimacy of work carried out by Indian defence and security institutions.
These organisations, he acknowledged, operated under the framework of “democratic processes and the rule of law” and assessments made about candidates in no way questioned the functioning of these organisations.
Disassociating Ottawa from the language or the “inaccurate” impression it has created, Mr. Kenney felt the problem arose from the “deliberately” broad legislation on visa policy which led to officials casting the net “too widely”.
For this reason, Canada was actively reviewing the admissibility policy within the legislation and is under active review at this time.
Canadian officials who suggested association of employers of visa applicants with human rights violations and a hand in subversive activities were, however, “non-partisan” public servants and followed an “independent process” based on Canada’s immigration law as it currently stands, claimed Mr. Kenney. It has now come out that these officials drew on “open sources” of information while telling visa officials that their serving or former organisations were human rights violators.
The External Affairs Ministry took up the issue with Canada in a big way and on Thursday External Affairs Minster S.M. Krishna termed remarks made in visa rejection letters as “unacceptable”.
Offended over issuance of a different category of visa rather than the normal one to an intelligence officer and member of the Prime Minister’s advance party for the G-20 Ottawa summit, the Union Home Ministry had threatened to apply similar criteria for Canadian armed forces and intelligence offensive bound for the “war on terror” in Afghanistan.
The Ministry also suggested that it would be satisfied with no less than a time bound apology otherwise it would retaliate by rejecting applications from Canadian security services.
So far nearly a dozen cases of former and serving senior army and intelligence officers being insulted have come to light. What is surprising is that some of them had visited Canada earlier but their vocation suddenly became an impediment from 2008 onwards.
Canada also utilised the occasion to underline the fact that over 1.30 lakh Indians were given visas every year with some of them being members of the Indian security forces.
Ottawa also drew attention to the closer cooperation in partnership forged during a summit meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterpart Stephen Harper last November, against the backdrop of arrest of Canadian Tahawwur Rana, for allegedly scouting target sites for the Laskhar-e-Taiba. Both sides are also exploring the possibility of a free trade agreement and a pact on reviving their cooperation in civil nuclear energy.

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