Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll be sharing my time with my colleague, Ms. Alice Choy, who is our national director.
Good morning, everyone, honourable members. I'm Victor Wong. I'm the executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council. With me is Ms. Alice Choy, our national director. She is also the president of the Association for Business and Community Development, based in Montreal. She was a member of the Canadian delegation that visited China with the Prime Minister on his first bilateral visit in 2009. That's where the ADS agreement was signed.
Founded in 1980, CCNC is a national non-profit organization with 27 chapters across Canada, and we are a community leader for Chinese Canadians in promoting a more just, respectful, and inclusive society. The Chinese Canadian community has a unique immigration history. It's one of restriction, exclusion, and quotas, and from this experience we can offer the following observations with regard to the visitor visas study that you're conducting.
Canada offers visa-free travel for visitors from certain countries already. Taiwan passport holders and Hong Kong residents are examples, but visitors from China are required to apply for a temporary resident visa, and vice versa. The fact is that emerging countries tend to be on Canada's visa list, which tends to racialize some of the public discourse around this issue.
We don't hear about visitor overstays from Americans, or the British, for example, but if there is some controversial story about visitor visas, it's about someone who has overstayed their visa. The visa requirement allows Canada to manage the flow of visitors, but it also comes at a cost to Canadian families and Canadian businesses.
I'll just touch briefly on a few things that we've come across. With regard to tourist visas, according to the UN World Tourism Organization, 83 million Chinese tourists spent a record $102 billion in international tourism in 2012. Their preferred countries included places in their region—Hong Kong and Macau, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, and Australia—but about 7 million Chinese tourists travelled longer destinations, mainly to the U.S., France, the U.K., and other European countries.
Canada has worked hard to attract more of these tourists. As I mentioned earlier, we signed the ADS, and about 300,000 Chinese tourists visited Canada in 2012, but I think we're falling behind. We will have to be much more competitive, in my view, and the visa process is one important piece.
As for visas for family and friends, China remains a top source country for immigration to Canada. About 300,000 Chinese have arrived in the last decade. Like the previous generations of naturalized Canadians, these newcomers will want to have their friends and relatives living overseas to visit for their shared holidays, for weddings, births, or sometimes there's an illness in the family, or perhaps a funeral. Too often, as mentioned by my colleague, Ms. Go, visa applications are rejected and visitors need to make a new application, or they require intervention from honourable members, or even from the minister's office.
I just want to touch briefly on the super visa for parents and grandparents. When it was introduced, CCNC supported it as a stopgap measure in response to the backlog of applications. The rejection rate, though, is high, and the program should have, but doesn't, a proper mechanism to land those who wish to stay here on a permanent basis.
What you're going to see in about ten years is perhaps hundreds of non-status grannies seeking status. What are you going to do at that time?
As for business visitors, individuals are visiting for various business and investment reasons. They want to do their research. Some of them also want to research choices for immigration and for international education opportunities for their family members.
Chinese tend to form delegations for study and travel, but it's a very cumbersome process when it comes to the visa, because they have to prepare the visas in batches and they have to put together invitation letters. Some honourable members here may have been approached to offer invitation letters to some of these delegations. The rejection rate is high. And as for an appeal mechanism, a speedy appeal mechanism might work, but it's better to just get the decision right in the first place. We recognize that there are trafficking issues, but it appears also to be much easier to secure visas to visit other developed countries, like Singapore or Australia, Japan, the U.S.A. If there is an issue with trafficking, perhaps we could look at conducting in-person interviews, where warranted. That might be one way to discourage trafficking.
The bottom line is, we're not competitive; we're losing opportunities for Canadian families and businesses. We would like to see a holistic approach here.
I want to end my comments now—I'm going to turn it over to Ms. Choy—by posing a question to MPs in this review. My question is, do Canadians want to see more Chinese visitors? From my vantage point, I'm just seeing mixed signals with regard to that question.
I'm going to turn it over to Ms. Choy, who has some information from her interviews with some of the folks in Hong Kong, China, and Canada.