Skip to content

Will Trudeau trade migrant rights to get CETA ratified?

Romanian prime minister Dacian Ciolos met with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on June 15. Photo by Adrian Wyld/ Canadian Press.

The Canadian government’s requirement of a visa for all travellers from Romania has put a strain on the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Why did Canadian government impose visa requirements on Romania in 2009? In September 2014, Maclean’s explained, “Canada imposed the visa on [Romania and other countries] to stop an influx of bogus refugee claimants among ethnic Roma applicants.” And why would Roma refugees be fleeing Romania? In its 2015/16 report on Romania, Amnesty International writes, “Roma continued to face systemic discrimination and were targeted with hate crimes, including excessive use of force by law enforcement officials. Anti-Roma sentiment continued to be frequently expressed in public and political discourse.”

As such, it would appear that Canada in fact closed its borders to Roma seeking refuge from oppression in Romania by imposing visa requirements.

There have been reports that this issue can be “resolved” by Canada lifting the visa requirement in exchange for the Romanian government sharing more information about travellers before they leave Romania.

In September 2014, Maclean’s reported, “John Manley, head of the influential Canadian Council of Chief Executives, [says] more needs to be done at European airports to block bogus refugee claimants from actually boarding flights for Canada. This could including closer tracking of travel documents used to board airliners, Manley said in an interview.” It could also include Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) ‘liaison officers’ in Romanian airports checking the travel documents of Roma travellers.

Now the Canadian Press reports, “Romania’s prime minister [Dacian Ciolos] says he’s hopeful the visa spat between his country and Canada will be resolved soon — because otherwise, his country may not support the Canada-EU free trade deal. …Ciolos said he emerged from talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau [in Ottawa last week] confident the travel restriction can be lifted in the coming months. But if that doesn’t happen, Ciolos said his country won’t be able to support the trade deal, known as CETA. ‘Romania will have difficulty to support an agreement that creates this negative discrimination for its citizens’, Ciolos said in an interview at the Romanian embassy.”

By that Ciolos likely does not mean “negative discrimination” against the Roma, but rather just the visa requirement placed on all Romanian travellers to stop Roma refugees entering Canada.

We reject the idea of CBSA officers in Romania checking the travel documents of Roma. This has been implemented in Hungary and as CBC reported last year, “Canada-bound Hungarians with valid travel documents have been interrogated at Budapest’s international airport and denied permission to travel by unidentified officials dozens of times in recent months.” Those pulled out of the line have been asked, “Are you Roma?” Instead of this, we call on the Trudeau government to demand Prime Minister Ciolos take action to end discrimination against the Roma in his country, as well as for Canada to welcome refugees fleeing oppression in Romania.

The Council of Canadians rejects CETA in that it gives more power to transnational corporations, while resulting in further restrictions on the movement and freedom of oppressed peoples.