CANADA: Denial of visitor visas for Myanmar Anglicans draws fire

September 30, 2009

Immigration Critic Olivia Chow is calling for a "free and fair" appeals process in the wake of the denial of visitor visas to 11 Anglicans from Myanmar.

The group had been invited by the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia to take part in a cultural exchange.

"Decisions appear to be made on a whim, and refusals seem to be more likely for applicants who are not from European countries," said Chow at a news conference on Parliament Hill September 29. "Without a free appeals process, like in the U.K. and Australia, applicants are left high and dry. They don't have their visa and they don't have their money."

On September 24, the Rev. Logan McMenamie, dean of Christ Church Anglican Cathedral in Victoria, urged the federal government to explain its actions, apologize to those affected and provide compensation for the costs incurred. He said the immigration minister has refused to intervene in the case.

At the news conference with Chow was Denise Savoie, the New Democratic Party's Member of Parliament for Victoria. She asked, "If the minister of citizenship and immigration is unwilling to take the word of Canadian church officials about a group of priests with unbreakable ties to their home parishes, then what hope does an ordinary citizen have in sponsoring their family member to visit Canada?"