The Toronto Star reports, “Canada is currently negotiating a free-trade agreement with the European Union, which diplomats and economists say would probably collapse if Canada introduced a visa program for Hungarians. (Despite a growing number of anti-Roma paramilitary groups in Hungary), Canada’s government doesn’t believe the vast majority of Hungarian Roma are in imminent danger. Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has said most Roma travel to Canada to exploit social programs, including welfare, subsidized public housing, health care, the low-income tax rebate and the child-tax benefit.”
So rather than using a visa program, Kenney will use “the Balanced Refugee Reform Act (and C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act) in which would-be refugees from (Hungary and other countries) would have only 15 days to file a personal information form outlining their claim instead of the current 30 days (which critics say makes it impossible to get supporting documentation for the claim in time).”
The article notes, “Canada began to require visas from those traveling from the Czech Republic in 2009 after 95 Czech Roma landed at Pearson International Airport claiming refugee status.” In October 2011, the Prague Post reported, “Czech officials are sticking to threats to block ratification (of the Canada-EU free trade agreement) if a controversial Canadian visa requirement is not lifted. ’If the issue is not resolved by the time the negotiations are concluded, it cannot be granted that the Czech Parliament will not postpone its ratification,’ a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry (has said).”
This past May, Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew wrote, “Harper is in a rush to pass C-31 so he can drop visas for ‘legitimate’ Czech, Bulgarian, Hungarian and Romanian travellers while detaining, quickly processing and deporting Roma back to their ’safe’ countries in Europe, ignoring damning reports from Hungary and other countries contained in the Council of Europe report. Harper, Kenney and Trade Minister Ed Fast undoubtedly want to drop their visa requirements for eastern European countries to pave the way for CETA.”
To read more about how the Roma visa issue has been an obstacle to concluding the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) talks, go to (Stuart’s blog at) http://canadians.org/blog/?p=15277, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=14505 and http://canadians.org/blog/?p=4998. To read about Jan Szamko, the Roma refugee who died in deportation custody in a Toronto jail, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?p=6216. To read a No One Is Illegal action alert against C-31, go to http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/673. The Toronto Star feature article is at http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1270708–roma-in-hungary-feel-persecuted-but-they-have-nowhere-to-turn.
On Sunday November 4 in Toronto, there will be a protest against Kenney receiving an honorary degree ‘in appreciation of his revered leadership’ from the University of Haifa. The rally starts at 4pm at David Pecaut Square (King & John) and then marches to Fairmont Royal York Hotel (100 Front). If you live in the Toronto-area, please be there to voice your opposition to Kenney.