Mr. Speaker, we are here this evening to debate the immensely important matter of overt and subtle racism at IRCC offices abroad.
I asked the minister on June 9 to confirm or deny if Canada is running an apartheid-era, visa selection process in South Africa. Unfortunately, the government’s response has left me with more questions than answers.
Canadians are rightfully proud of our contribution to helping to end apartheid. The fact that Canadian immigration officers could be perpetuating apartheid in our visa selection processes today is appalling.
It bears reiterating some key facts from my question, including how the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration tabled a report in May 2022 that noted overt and subtle racism at its offices abroad, especially at posts where visa decisions were delegated to locally engaged staff, such as in South Africa. It came to my attention that an unofficial filter system has been incorporated in that country, whereby white, local staff are overwhelmingly refusing visa applications from predominantly Black South Africans. This is shameful.
It has real impacts on real people. This evening, I want to read into the record stories that I have been given permission to share to put a face to the travesty of the government’s failure to address this systemic racism.
These are stories that have been shared with me by regulated Canadian immigration consultants who have helped countless applicants navigate Canada’s immigration system. For the purposes of protecting their clients, some of whom have had to reapply, as well the consultants' own livelihoods, we have taken the cautionary step of anonymizing identities.
I want to tell members about Jane Smith, a Black South African mother who sought a visitor visa so that she could be by her daughter’s side, who had fallen ill and was rushed to the emergency room. During the most traumatic period in their family’s life, no one at the local office seemed to care. Emails and phone calls were unanswered. A decision was only rendered four months later. It was much too late, but fortunately, Jane’s daughter recovered.
The fact remains that a mother was prevented from being by her child’s side. Perhaps, these human consequences do not matter as much. Instead, let us consider how the government's inaction to address racism is costing our country real dollars.
Jessica Smith and her family were planning on vacationing in the United States. She walked into the U.S. embassy in Johannesburg and received her visa in 48 hours, just two days. However, from us, for three months, she heard nothing back and ended up cancelling over a week’s worth of flights, hotel bookings, and theatre and other activities, depriving our economy of thousands of tourism dollars.
In fact, one regulated Canadian immigration consultant told me about another family that initially planned on visiting both the U.S. and Canada, but they did not even bother with us. The situation is so bad that Canada has now developed a reputation where people do not even bothering applying.
There are also direct consequences for Canadians, including talent and, in the example I will share, for our health care system, which continues to be under strain.
Dr. Joe Smith is a Black surgeon who received a job offer from a provincial regional health authority to join its operating team in an underserved area and relieve its long backlog.
Despite the extensive work and references from the Canadian provincial health authority, somehow his file was deemed incomplete, and they were not even afforded a chance to answer, which is something that is always afforded to white doctors. Why?
Can my colleague confirm or deny if Canada is running an apartheid-era, visa-selection process?