By Ally Dunham
Tourism outfitters and associations across the region are celebrating a federal decision that will give personnel at the Canadian/U.S. border more options in admitting visitors to Canada.
Kenora MP Greg Rickford played a key role in pushing for the new policy, announced Feb. 10, by Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney.
Beginning March 1, the new policy will allow individuals with only one minor conviction, no matter what the date of conviction, to cross the border at no cost.
“Greg (Rickford) and others have asked that we look at the policy to see how its application could be relaxed,” said Kenney during the public conference to release the information. “I am pleased to announce today that I have signed what’s called a special public policy under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which will come into effect on March 1, instructing our border officers to grant Temporary Resident Permits (TRP) to foreign nationals who are inadmissible due to minor criminal convictions.”
Kenney says that would include individuals with an indictable offence with a sentence of less than six months.
With concerns being raised since the September 11 tragedy, and new immigration laws, many US visitors have been denied entry to the country, due to driving under the influence charges, or other similar, minor convictions.
“Our laws on inadmissibility are strict, they always have been, but this became much more of an acute problem starting several years ago because in the post 9/11 environment, Canada and the United States started a much more systematic sharing of information on criminal databases. So starting a few years ago, a lot of Americans who had previously no problems crossing the border, their minor criminal convictions were suddenly appearing in our computer systems when we swiped their passports,” said Kenney.
“Under this order that I have made, at a port of entry, in the vast majority of cases, they will no longer have to go through the lengthy, costly process of applying for a TRP, rather the CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency) officer will, in the vast majority of cases, simply issue, without a fee, the permit that overcomes inadmissibility,” said Kenney.
“Under our legislative framework, the border officers have delegated authority to make the final decisions on admissibility, so we don’t want to suggest to our visitors that every one of them is going to get a pass into Canada. It’s going to depend on the circumstances, the nature of the offence, how long the sentence was, it’s gravity, and whether they’ve been forthright with the border officers,” said Kenney.
Kenney says the policy is seen as an interim solution to the problem faced by the tourism industry and his office will continue to consult with the industry on a permanent, long-term remedy to the problem.
The tourism industry has suffered for some time from this issue, and many tourist camp operators and tourism association representatives expressed their deep gratitude at the changes taking place in the policy.
See the Wed., Feb. 15 edition of the Dryden Observer for more details and comments from MP Rickford and local tourist operations.