Monday, November 01, 2010

Welcome to Canada! Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party? Or the Cub Scouts?

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has issued a new visa questionnaire with some pretty intrusive questions that will likely be generating controversy soon, and could lead to more visa fights and retaliatory measures against Canada, such as with its ongoing dispute with Mexico.

On Saturday, John Ibbitson high-lighted the issue in the Globe, reporting on the questions related to military service and the objections raised by the Russian government:

But it’s the military questions that bother the Russians most. The new forms require any visa applicant who has served in the military, police or civil defence services to disclose when they served, what unit they served in, where that unit was located and what were their responsibilities.

In Russia, which enforces mandatory military service, providing such information to a foreign government is punishable by up to four years in prison.

Russian and Canadian officials are to discuss the new visa requirements next month. But Mr. Petrov warned that if there is no progress, Russia may retaliate by imposing equally restrictive requirements on Canadians applying for a Russian visa.

“We would be happy not to have that,” he maintained. “But our primary responsibility is to preserve the rights of our own citizens.”

While Ibbitson's story focused on the military questions, I was more interested in something he only mentioned in passing: the question on political membership.

You can download the form as a PDF here. This is the question on political involvement:

4. Were you ever a member of a political party or other group or organization?
Give details of organizations you have supported, been a member of or been associated with. Include any political, social, youth or student organization, trade unions, professional associations. Do not use abbreviations.
So in addition to mentioning my Liberal Party of Canada membership, I guess I'd also have to mention the year in high school I worked at Superstore and was in the United Food and Commercial Workers union. And possibly also my two years in Beavers. I did one night of Cubs, but decided to quit.

The questions on military service are even more extensive.
2. A) Did you serve in any military, militia, or civil defence unit or in an intelligence organization or police force (including obligatory national service, reserve or volunteer units)?

B) Did you receive special training?

C) Did you participate in any form of combat?
I guess I'd have to mention my teenage years in the Air Cadets. No combat, unless you include dodge ball during monthly sports nights.

Some inquiry regarding military service is probably appropriate. But remember, we're not talking about immigration here. We're talking about visas for tourists, business travelers and other temporary visitors. Where is the relevance of asking about someone's history of political involvement, unless it directly relates to the purpose of their visit?

Of course, if someone doesn't want to ask these questions, they're free to not come visit Canada. And their country is free to make us answer questions just as obtrusive. Ask the tourism industry how the little tit for tat with Mexico has worked out.

So is asking unnecessarily obtrusive questions really worth the cost in lost business and travel opportunities from visitors bypassing Canada, and increased hassle and inconvenience for Canadians that will face retaliatory measures?

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Smax said...

I would rather have my home country protected than not ask the questions and allow dishonest people to enter and live in my country, and bring their detrimental values to our citizens.

On top of that, if other countries want to backlash and make it harder for Canadians to travel and work abroad, I think that would hold a larger down side to them.

In the long run, this day in age, those are questions that need to be asked. If you're not willing to answer it, what are you hiding and what dangers will that bring to Canadian citizens?

CanadianSense said...

This is an interesting post. You seem to gloss over the number of fake asylum seekers is between 60-70%. Mexico and Hungary were responsible for the majority of the abuse.

You seem to ignore the AG report on the missing asylum seekers. Over 30,000?

You support Canadians being fined unless they provide information on a long form census but want people visiting/moving to our country to not provide information that might discover if they are part of a military or spy network?

This does not seem consistent with your previous held position of the state, third parties need to know personal information.

evilscientist said...

@Smax and CanadianSense:

I guess the people who would be applying for a visa would answering them honestly.. just like criminals register their guns....

Basically it's a policy to allow the government of the day to keep out it's political enemies, if' they're stupid enough to answer "yes" to any of the questions.

Some basic facts... spies and terrorists aren't going to answer "yes" to any of the questions... they'll still get in, whereas genuine tourists may be barred since they belonged to the "wrong" political organization as youngsters.

CanadianSense said...

A few Marxists are going to get denied entry because of their youthful indiscretions? Pity

You might feel it is important to belong the grenade throwing or landmine builders club as a youth, fortunately most of don't see it that way.

Visa's add another layer of "truthiness" and require the state to be complicit. That's why the reduction in bogus claims by Mexico and Hungary was immediate.

It is a shame Cubans can't swim to Canada too eh?

evilscientist said...

Yet more security theater that won't enhance security. Such a questionnaire won't stop bogus refugee claims, as the people you'd like to see excluded wouldn't be applying for refugee status.

Further, in most regimes where the party and the state are inseparable, people may not have had a Hobson's choice about joining the party in a "take it or starve without a job" kind of way. To deny someone a visitor visa because of that is bizarre in the extreme.

Yes visas add some accountability, but filling out the long form census to acquire a visa in no way improves that accountability. You'll only keep out the honest people as those who want to go on a ski holiday in Canada will simply lie on the form, defeating its purpose.

In which case such a questionnaire is as useful as the gun registry, it will only affect law abiding visitors and treat them like criminals whereas those we'd probably like to keep out, criminals, spies and terrorists, will simply lie on the form and get a visa. Eventually the form, like the "are you a terrorist" question they used to ask you at the airline check-in counter will be phase out as expensive and useless.

rockfish said...

Reading the CON prattle above has helped liven up a dull day. Amazing how now everyone must be tossed through the looking glass before entry, and then upon acceptance (and passing their own privately-set 'standards' ) God gave us a gun that no one should know about and a bathroom, keep the gov't out of my business! What a bunch o' hypochondriac maniacs...