Ottawa’s Gone Cool On Visas For Ukrainians – MP

OTTAWA, Canada -- A Canadian member of parliament from the Liberal Party has accused the new Conservative government in Ottawa of turning a cold shoulder to visitors and immigrants from Ukraine through its visa policy at the embassy in Kyiv.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj, a Canadian member of parliament from the Liberal Party, accuses his country’s new Conservative government of aggressively slashing visas for Ukrainians at the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who claims to be the only lawmaker with Ukrainian roots serving in Canada’s House of Commons, says that Canadian Conservatives, who took over the government earlier this year, have been placing a strain on bonds between his country’s significant Ukrainian Diaspora and their kith and kin in the mother country.

Staff cuts last summer at the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv, as well as an alleged drop in the number of visitor and permanent residency visas issued by the embassy to Ukrainians, reflects a negative attitude toward Ukrainians on the part of new Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, according to Wrzesnewskyj.

There are more than 1 million ethnic Ukrainians living in Canada, which has a population of over 32 million.

In an Oct. 5 statement, Wrzesnewskyj said that Canada’s Conservative government was responsible for numerous visa rejections and delays at the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv.

“This summer I was receiving increasing numbers of calls and e-mails from frustrated constituents and Canadians across the country, who were unable to get their relatives and friends to come to Canada for family visits, weddings, christenings and, regrettably, even funerals,” Wrzesnewskyj said in the statement.

“It turns out that this is a consequence of aggressive cuts to the staff at Canada’s Embassy in Ukraine by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. In July and September 2006, three positions, or 30 percent of the immigration section in Kyiv, have been eliminated, leaving a skeletal staff of seven.”

“The cutting of three immigration officers further demonstrates Immigration Minister Solberg’s attitude when it comes to potential immigration from Ukraine,” he said.

Embassy of Canada Political and Economic Program Officer Inna Tsarkova said that the recent personnel changes were no reason for panic, and characterized them as standard and well-considered moves.

“The changes are made based on well-established trends, not on short-term shifts, and are verified with current-year data,” Tsarkova told the Post Oct. 18.

“In this year’s [personnel] exercise, staff was reduced at 13 visa offices [around the world], and increased at 13 others, and all visa offices being trimmed will retain a sufficient number of staff to provide their current level of service in all priority categories,” she added.

“In the immigration section of the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv, this review and adjustment resulted in the elimination of one immigration officer position and two clerical/support positions – a registry supervisor and a cashier.”

Tsarkova said it was too early following the staff cuts to say whether they have resulted in a tangible decrease in the number of Canadian visas issued to Ukrainians.

Bohdan Klid, the assistant director at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies in Edmonton, Canada, said he believes that “service at the immigration section in Ukraine could have been improved” and that “it’s logical to conclude that the time to process applications will now be delayed with fewer staff at the immigration section.”

Klid told the Post Oct. 17, “The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, currently Monty Solberg, is the person from the [Canadian] government and the governing Conservative Party who is ultimately responsible for policy.”

According to data provided by the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv, each year the embassy receives between 6,000 and 7,000 temporary resident (visitor) visa applications and more than 900 applications for permanent residence in Canada. It issues over 5,000 temporary resident visas and 700 permanent resident visas to applicants from Ukraine.

Over the last five years, the number of temporary resident visa applications has increased, while the number of permanent residence applications has decreased, the Canadian Embassy said.

During Canada’s Jan. 23, 2006 early federal election, the Conservative Party won 40.3 percent of seats, or 124 out of 308, up from 99 seats in 2004. The liberals, headed by now former Prime Minister Paul Martin, went from 135 to 103 seats – a 23.7 percent drop from what they had in the last parliament.

Source: Kyiv Post