The British Columbia government runs a tourism campaign based on the slogan ‘The Best Place on Earth’. Sitting in my office on a peerless August morning with the sun shining in through my floor to ceiling windows I find it hard to disagree, but I can’t help but think that our visa officers overseas have taken the notion too far.
When I was a visa officer, there were two prevailing mindsets among officers – facilitation and enforcement. The Department’s official policy combined intelligent risk management with facilitation, but I knew a lot of officers who looked at every application to visit Canada with extreme suspicion. Their primarily responsibility, as they saw their jobs, was to protect Canada from those who would try to take advantage of our natural openness and generosity.
I have recently had a couple of clients whose temporary resident visa (TRV – or visitor visa, in laymen’s terms) applications were refused on the basis of their having ‘insufficient ties to their home countries’. Strong as the siren song of Canada might be, both are women in their mid 50s who have been married for nearly 30 years. Recently retired, they speak no English and have extended families living around them – siblings, children, grandchildren! Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of their home cultures would understand how strong these bonds are.
Yet our visa officers are so convinced of the desirability of life in Canada that they arrogantly assume that these folks would abandon their lives, interwoven with family, friends, and community, to make a desperate move halfway around the world to a place where they can’t work legally (if they were inclined to work after finally retiring from a life of toil), can’t speak the language, have no home and no community outside of a small knot of relatives who will quickly tire of their absolute dependence.
I love it here and have devoted my career to helping people who want to come to Canada – but let’s not kid ourselves that given the chance everyone in the world would sacrifice everything they have and know – their homes, their languages, their cultures, their lives, their families and their communities – to stay illegally in Canada.
Do you think I’m being naive or do you agree that our visa officers have an overinflated opinion of Canada’s desirability?