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If it’s July, it must be about visas

Sunday, July 5th, 2009 by Jerry Kott

Less than a year ago, I argued here that a reinstated Canadian visa requirement for visitors from the Czech Republic may happen soon. Since the beginning of 2009, over a thousand Czech Romas have landed in Canada (mostly Toronto), seeking refugee status. In recent weeks, Czech media have published several (so far speculative) reports that visa requirement is imminent (original articles here or here). The Globe and Mail editorial from July 4th calls for exactly such step.

As Canadians of Czech origin, we might assume that our community would be consulted. I don’t know if anyone from the Canadian government bureaucrats is interested about what we have to say about the matter, or whether they have contacted any of our community organizations. Since our numbers are not in hundreds of thousands, and blocking major highways is not our way to get our politicians’ attention, I sincerely doubt it.

It has been documented elsewhere that the Czech Roma do not suffer significantly higher discrimination than in other European countries. They do not go to the USA or the EU, they come specifically to Canada. Why is that? One explanation, although far too convenient and difficult to prove, is that the Czech Roma asylum seekers are part of a well organized human trafficking network run from Toronto and Hamilton. The other explanation is that the Canadian immigration and refugee system is so easy to abuse, it just calls for this to happen – especially if there is a Canadian connection to the whole scheme.

Should the Canadian government move to reimpose visas on the Czech citizens? Absolutely not. This has been, it is, and it will continue to be a Canadian problem first (witness similar problems with citizens of Mexico). Even considering a Czech Roma refugee application is a slap in the face of legitimate asylum seekers, never mind the cost to the taxpayers and the waste of good will among Czechs and Canadians alike. The only solution to this is for the Canadian government to accept that twenty years after the Velvet Revolution, the Czech Republic (with all its failings) is a free and democratic state, and stop accepting these bogus refugee applications.

Mr. Jason Kenney, the current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, is a great friend of Czech Republic and a promoter of closer ties between the two countries. I doubt it would be his wish to reimpose the visa. But maybe he needs our help to deal with the situation. If you think that Canada should not punish thousands of legitimate Czech visitors of Canada for the greed of a few Canadian-based organizers and the government bureaucracy ineptitude, tell him so. You can e-mail Minister@cic.gc.ca or send a letter to:

The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1L1

Let our voice be heard. We, Canadians of Czech origin, should be consulted, and we should let our politicians know that reimposing visas for our families, friends and business associates is not the way to deal with this problem.

Kanadské občanství předmětem debaty

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 by Jerry Kott
Jedmín z mých oblíbených televizních pořadů je The Agenda with Steve Paikin, produkce ontárijské neziskové televizní stanice TVO v Torontu. Dnes jsem měl možnost shlédnout opakované vysílání pořadu z 28. dubna na téma kanadského občanství, zabývající se mimo jiné otázkou multikulturalismu, integrace v kanadské společnosti, a adopce kanadských společenských hodnot přistěhovalci do této úžasné země. Je to téma týkající se české a slovenské komunity, a soudě podle událostí posledních zhruba dvanácti měsíců, je i předmětem horkých debat a výměny názorů.

Coby kanadský občan žijící v Kanadě, jsem jednoznačně toho názoru, že moje loajalita a identita patří kanadské společnosti, a přestože jsem vyrostl v Československu a miluji českou řeč a kulturu, můj život je neodvratně spjat s Kanadou. Myslím, že argumenty typu “ten a ten člověk nemluví česky, nemůže proto reprezentovat česko-slovenské organizace” nejsou hodné komunity která vděčí Kanadě za přijetí a příležitosti, kterých se dostalo jejím členům. Přihlédneme-li k demografické realitě stárnoucí české a slovenské populace v Kanadě, je nasnadě, že otevření komunitních organizací generacím které již vyrostly v Kanadě (i o tom se zmiňuje výše uvedený program) je jediným způsobem, jak zajistit kontinuitu česko-slovenské diaspory.

Poslechněte si debatu – je to poučné, občas i zábavné, a v každém případě námět k zamyšlení. Současný ministr občanství a multikulturalismu Jason Kenney, jehož výroky jsou v programu několikrát citovány, je příznivcem české a slovenské komunity, a několikrát v minulosti navštívil Masaryktown. Držme mu palce v jeho úsilí zesílit pocit kanadské sounáležitosti ze strany nových občanů.

Free speech under attack

Friday, April 17th, 2009 by Jerry Kott

United Nations wants you to shut up

United Nations wants you to shut up

With all the brouhaha about the state of the economy, the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the political crisis in Czech Republic and so on, I almost missed one piece of disturbing news coming from the United Nations. In a recent resolution passed on March 26th, the UN Human Rights Council urges the member States (that includes our beloved Canada and one of the few countries with free speech actually guaranteed by Constitution, the USA) to provide legal “protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general.”
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