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?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.
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.
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)?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.
B) Did you receive special training?
C) Did you participate in any form of combat?
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.