Hon. Amina Gerba: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. Senator Gold, in my former life as an entrepreneur, I saw just how long it took to process visa applications and how many of those applications were denied. As a result, we have missed out on the participation of many Africans in our cultural and economic events.
This situation has been going on for decades and is only getting worse. Recently released figures indicate that a person from Senegal or Gabon who wishes to come to Canada must wait 320 days for an answer they cannot appeal, whereas an Indonesian visa applicant must wait only 11 days for a response.
Senator Gold, why the disparity in processing times, and what is the government doing to change this discriminatory policy, which is having a negative impact on our international events, particularly in Montreal?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, colleague, for raising this issue. Generally speaking, the government takes all necessary steps to reduce backlogs in the short term while making our system more sustainable in the long term.
Senator, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada recognized, and I quote, “the presence of racism in Canada and within [its] own organization.”
The department is taking measures geared at achieving racial equity. I have been assured that each case is assessed on its merits fairly and in accordance with Canadian laws. The government has clearly indicated that all applications must be treated impartially and professionally.
Senator Gerba: Thank you, Senator Gold. However, does the government have a reliable schedule in place for making changes to its immigration policies, particularly for Africans who are travelling to Canada on business?
Senator Gold: Thank you for your question. The government is strongly committed to its relationships with African nations. I want to point out that, when it comes to visa applications, Morocco and Seychelles are among the 13 new countries that are now eligible for the Electronic Travel Authorization program, or eTA. Eligible travellers from those African countries can request an eTA rather than a visa.