Will Canada Accept Cubans in Limbo?

May 19, 2017 | Print Print |

Absurd and incomprehensible diplomacy

By Aurelio Pedroso  (Progreso Semanal)

HAVANA TIMES — Via news agencies and the not very transparent channels on the internet, somebody has proposed that Canadian authorities take on a number of our citizens stranded in places from Mexico to the Patagonia.

The response has been “Thank you very much for informing us of such a mishap. We will carefully study this problem” and other things in the same vein. I hope, and I write this from the bottom of my heart, that Canada’s doors open to them and that they can sort out their lives. However, up until now, everything indicates that the winds aren’t blowing in a favorable direction for our fellow Cubans.

The surprising thing in this story is that almost at the same time that this request became public, the Canadian embassy in the Cuban capital had informed a 15 year old girl, whose mother had a 5-year Canadian visa, that the letter of safe-passage she needed to visit her aunt had been refused. It appears fear and panic came [to the authorities] as the girl might look for a warm coat, ask for another one for her mother who would go with her, and that both of them would decide to stay there knowing that Canada’s strict immigration laws would cause great problems for her family. It couldn’t have made less sense.

However, the world we live in is full of such things happening, full of absurd and incomprehensible diplomacy. It happens in English, French, Spanish or in Mandarin.

Some have decided to come back to their homeland, others have been deported back from Panama and Mexico; others remain stranded in South and Central America, in a more real limbo than in a religious sense. However, their reality is harsh and tough, because regardless of the decision that governments in this region take, ECLA (the Economic Commission for Latin America) predicts that unemployment will continue to increase – it currently stands at 8.6%. Except for extraordinary cases, which are generally linked to migrant qualifications, it will be very difficult to open up these doors. If only a good locksmith would turn up.

Up until now, without worrying about the rise in the number of immigrants, Canada will continue to uphold its immigration policy which involves obtaining a visa from one of its embassies.


What's your opinion?

  • Amir Saarony

    Please explain to me why Canada should change its immigration policy. Canada is very welcoming for many refugees and has strict policy for none refugee claimants.

  • Martin Reid

    Speaking as a Canadian, the Canadian Embassy or should we say Canada’s Immigration Dept is a public disgrace. I recently did a Freedom of Information request to discover (no surprise) that only 34% of visitor visas were approved in 2015 (latest year for statistics). Of 24,000 applicants only 8134 were approved and I suspect the majority of these would be Cubans with close family in Canada already. The scandal of this is that a Cuban citizen must pay C$80 with his/her visa application (two+ month’s wages) resulting by my calculation in Cubans subsidizing Canada to the tune of $1.3 million a year by way of declined applications. Put another way Cubans were tricked into providing 20 years of labour every year for the benefit of Canada! The process is labourious involving forms in English or French (why not Spanish) delving deeply into the Cuban applicants life and usually requiring all kinds of certificates in support often at additional cost. Reasons given for declining are often wildly inaccurate and no appeal is permitted. By contrast Cuba permits almost 2 million Canadians to enter Cuba with an almost zero rejection rate!

    Of course there will be some Cubans who will claim refugee status on landing but the rejection rate is all out of proportion to that. The daughter of a friend who had received a three year visa and visited Canada twice and returned to Cuba both times was rejected on renewal. Another friend who had a senior management job, held a Master’s degree, has an upper four figure bank balance, is married and owns her own home was rejected three times though she had the support of members of three cycling clubs in Canada! This latter points out the complete indifference this arrogant department has towards its own citizens.

    In short these wretched Cubans stranded in South and Central America can expect little sympathy from the relevant department – notwithstanding the broad sympathy of the Canadian people.

    • Amir Saarony

      the main issue for years for Canada has been the large number of Cubans who enter on a tourist visa, drive or are driven over the border to USA and claimed dry foot status. I remember going to the Canadian embassy in Havana to inquire and the rep showed me cabinets of files of Cubans who have not come back after doing this. I even have Cuban friends who have done this. It may change now that this policy is no longer a guaranteed entry to USA.
      I know many Cubans who have visited multiple times and almost freely. What is the exact tipping point I do not know.
      As far as them allowing us in? Well there is a certain economic imbalance that rules that. We spend money there. We help support the government, and in reality, how many Canadians have claimed refugee status in Cuba or stayed permanently illegally?

  • Ken Hiebert

    It’s not easy to get into Canada. Last year at this time I was preparing for a Cuban musical ensemble to tour in British Columbia. That tour had to be cancelled when some of the performers were denied visas. And these were people who had already toured in Canada. They were being sponsored by an organization that had previously brought them and other touring groups.
    A neighbouring community is planning a visit of a Cuban baseball team this coming July. Let’s hope that goes well.
    Syrian refugees are being allowed in at a slow pace. The refugee committee that I’m involved in will be waiting a year or more to bring in the family we have chosen. And they already have relatives here.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      The Canadian Embassy will be aware of the frequent defections by members of Cuban sports teams when visiting Canada. In 2006 four members of the official Cuban Baseball team defected on their second day in Canada – resulting in Fidel Castro telephoning the organiser to complain, and in 2011, three members of the Cuban Womens Baseball team defected.
      I like you Ken, wish your neighbouring community well in their endeavours, but such defections do affect consideration of other applicants as there is an evident assumption that Cubans visiting Canada will not return to Cuba.
      As a passing comment, I just happen to have become a friend of the father of Alex Cuba (not his actual name) and his brother, both of whom are married to Canadians and live in B.C. Their father is a most wonderful guitarist and to listen to him play under the warm star lit sky in Cuba is a joy. Alex is an Emmy Award winner.

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    I have previously mentioned in these columns, that my wife was denied a TRV (Temporary Residents Visa) by the Canadian Embassy in Havana five times. Then we applied to the British Embassy in Havana for a TRV. The difference in attitude between the staffs of the two embassies was remarkable. The Brits were helpful and courteous in contrast to the Canadians and granted a TRV on the first application. Having received a TRV to visit the UK and having made the visit, I told a Conservative Canadian M.P. that if my wife was again refused a visa, I would go public and hand the complete file to the Globe and Mail or to the National Post, including copy of the e-mails which he had exchanged with the Canadian Embassy – and which had actually given what is politely described as an ‘untruth’. His response was a Churchillian: “Go to it.”
    Whether it was the Brits issuing a TRV or political pressure (the Canadian Government in power at the time was Conservative) we shall never know, but when the following year we applied, a TRV was forthcoming. Nothing had changed in the circumstances of the application. In going back and forth my wife has now spent well over six months in total in Canada.
    I cannot agree with Martin Reid’s criticism of the charge (which is $100 Canadian), being excessive because of the pitiful incomes of Cubans, but agree otherwise with his criticism.
    Amir Saarony says that Canada ought not to change its immigration policy. That is an interesting view, but holds little relevance when the Canadian Government can put it aside in order to gain kudos by allowing some 25,000 Syrians in and supply them with financial support, thus jumping the long line of those who have gone through the proper channels. Those refugees were not at that time fleeing Syria – they were already in Jordan, it was a self evident political publicity stunt.
    Another factor with the Trudeau Government, is Justin Trudeau’s high level of admiration for the Castro communist regime. That was explained when upon Fidel Castro dying, Trudeau as Canadian Prime Minister wrote:

    “I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raul Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.
    On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro.”

    This ingratiating tribute to a communist dictator was to most Canadians sickening and Trudeau was eventually under political and media pressure to reluctantly to admit that Fidel Castro was “A Dictator.”

    As an interesting side note, Trudeau in writing of Fidel referred to meeting “his three sons” whereas correctly he ought to have said ‘three of his known nine sons’.
    Fidel. Jorge, Ciro, Angel, Alex, Anton, Alejandro, Alexis and Fito who between them had five mothers.

    As another aside, my wife a Cuban, has been in the US without a passport. How? Just take the tour boat on Waterton Lake in the Canadian National Park of that name to Ghost Haunt at the south end of the lake which is in the US.

    In contradiction to Amir who implies that Cubans entering Canada seek to move to the US, there is a Cuban Association in Edmonton, Alberta which is 600 km north of the US border. There are Cubans who recognize the benefits of living in Canada rather than the US.

    Ken Hiebert speaks of the planning of a visit by a Cuban baseball team. When in 2006 the Cuban team visited Edmonton, four defected resulting in the organizer Mr. Ron Hayter actually receiving an abusive telephone call from Fidel Castro. Castro hung up when Ron Hayter commented that it was the Castro regime who selected the team not him. So to use that Churchillian phrase again Ken: “Go to it.”

  • Maureen Bordeleau

    They should at least refund the application fee when they refuse to provide a Visa. As you said the cost for a Cuban is exorbitant and even if at times a Canadian friend might subsidize the cost, the money would be better in their pockets than the government coffers.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      I see no reason why the Canadian taxpayer should pay for applications made to Canadian Embassies by other nationalities. Presumably those who apply in Cuba for a Canadian Visa or TRV are able to afford their Cuban passport and the fare. If and when the Editor restores my comment, then do please read it to understand my view.

      • Maureen Bordeleau

        I happen to know Cubans who could ill afford either the passport or the fare. The person was helped by a Canadian to come and spend a couple of months here. I would willingly do the same for our friends if I actually thought they had a chance of receiving a Visa.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          How did those Cubans obtain a TRV when my wife could not having provided her bank account, ownership of a house, letter of permission from the Ministry of Education, my letter of invitation, statutory declaration and Bank statement? In addition my M.P. who held office in the Government of Canada and was a member of the Privy Council sent e-mails directly to the Canadian Embassy when they told him an ‘untruth’ – I can say that because copy was retained. What was the pretext used in their applications to the Canadian Embassy in Havana? I find it difficult to believe that by just saying they wanted to visit friends in Canada, that the Embassy issued TRVs especially as apparently they did not have the funding for their visit.
          My wife was declined a visa five times and it was only following the British Embassy in Havana issuing her a visa that Canada eventually provided her with one.
          To me, there is something fishy!

  • Maureen Bordeleau

    The point is that they can’t afford the trip. Usually a Canadian friend is paying their costs. I understand that we don’t want people on tourist visas staying in Canada but what about those who legitimately want to visit and then return home.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      Read my comment to you above. How do your Canadian friends obtain visas for Cubans who seek a TRV merely to visit friends. It seems to me that an application for a TRV by a wife to visit her husband ought to have priority over Cubans seeking to visit friends. I have a very serious interest in your response.

      • Maureen Bordeleau

        When I learned more about how difficult it was obtain a Visa, I was even more surprised that my friend succeeded. I has only met her at the time but a Canadian friend sponsored her. She spent 2 months in Canada however her 15 year old daughter stayed in Cuba. I know it was legitimate and this person would not have resorted to anything “fishy” due to her religious principles. That being said I remember you talking about how difficult it was for your wife. Maybe the fact that her daughter stayed behind made a difference. I have seen her every year since she went to Canada (summer of 2012). Maybe she was just lucky!

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          My wife also has a daughter (my step-daughter) who was remaining in Cuba, so that cannot be the reason why your acquaintance was granted a visa. You mentioned “religious principles” – was a church involved?

          • Maureen Bordeleau

            No simply I know that she would not do anything illegal or unethical in order to obtain a Visa. The person sponsoring her was not of the same religious affiliation.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            I have to admit I am mystified. As you can read in Martin Reid’s comment, the Canadian Embassy only granted 34% of the visas applied for. that I should add includes my wife who received her visa as I have described at the 6th application and only following the UK granting her one.
            After the Embassy granted her her first and second visas, they then gave her a multiple entry visa for five years. Clearly logic is not their forte and obviuosly from your information there is massive inconsistency. I remember when I wrote to the Minister of Immigration detailing our experiences, his office responded that one can appeal the Embassy decision, but that it is necessary to employ a lawyer and to appeal in Ottawa within six weeks. His letter was dated six weeks and two days following the rejection by the Embassy!

          • Maureen Bordeleau

            Next winter when I see my friend Carlyle I will ask her. I think there is no rhyme nor reason to the way that decisions are made. Are you still spending time in Cuba or mostly in Canada?

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            I spend most of my time in Cuba – hence the long periods when I don’t contribute and give the syncopants a rest – for which I expect they are grateful.
            Yes Maureen I would love to know how your friend was successful.

          • Maureen Bordeleau

            Carlyle I was checking my older comments and saw that 3 years ago you had explained how difficult it was for your wife to get a visa.

          • Amir Saarony

            I don’t understand the religious mark. Two of my recents friends visits were Cuban catholic (not practicing) sponsored by a Jewish friend? Let’s not look for reasons amongst ourselves. We don’t even know all the criteria that helps make the decision. And from the Cuban side we only see what they wish to tell us. I do recall that with translation, notary, fees etc the process cost my friend close to $1000, if I recall correctly. Exclusive of travel

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Yes Amir, i have gone through the process of notarized Statutory Declarations accepting responsibility for any medical costs, guarantees, bank statements, letters of invitation with my wife obtaining letters of permission, proof of property ownership et al – eight times – with the various costs you mention. The UK had simillar requirements and received similar documents resulting in a TRV at first application. I can state openly as it can be substantiated by my former M.P and is recorded in retained e-mails that the Canadian Embassy in Havana actually told him an ‘untruth’.
            A touch of humour as Martin Reid referred to those waiting outside the fencing of the Embassy in Havana. When my wife was making application i was not allowed to accompany her into the Embassy. So I went around the corner to the other entrance and sat on a tree root on the grass verge opposite the gate. After some time I recognised the Canadian Ambassador and his wife entering and he cast a disdainful look at me sitting in shorts and T-shirt. He must have concluded that I was spoiling the image of his Embassy, for one of the guards came out and asked me to move.
            I responded that as a Canadian citizen who had been refused entry with my wife, I would stay exactly where I was. The guard went back in through the gate and then re-emerged to invite me in! I accepted and was provided with comfortable seating!
            Years ago I was actually a guest invited to have a BBQ supper at the Embassy and had a swim in the swimming pool in the interior. The hamburgers must have been imported as they were far superior to any available to Cubans.

          • Amir Saarony

            we used to have that BBQ every second Friday in the late 90s. We called it the Polar Bear Club. It was hosted by the embassy for Canadian expats living and working in Cuba. Was a networking and friend making opportunity. Canadian burgers and beer.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Sounds like fun Amir – although nowadays fun appears to be out of fashion. My visit sadly was not to the Polar Bear Club as it was in this century. But yes, we got Canadian Burgers and Bucanero was produced in Cuba in combination with Labatt’s

      • Amir Saarony

        He applied. Gave the appropriate documents and financial guarantees. The difficult part was more on the Cuban’s side. Clean record, no family in military, job, house family etc to come back to, maybe if they have or have not applied to immograte out of cuba. I know the guarantee was significant including medical etc. It was not
        An inexpensive process but a few Cubans have visited Canadian friends. Including one not 2
        Weeks ago.

    • Amir Saarony

      I know many Cubans who travel the world on their own dime. If the Canadian is paying, inviting and sponsoring then he has signed guarantees, submitted documents including tax filings, etc. Then the decision can be made on the admissibility of the Cuban. One invitation was declined because the Cuban was still part of military intelligence, another because he had no family, house or other reason to return. All in all Cubans need Visas for almost all nations except a small handful. Canada’s has always been tough to get. So what? We were the gateway to the USA for too many years and Canada was abused. Make it tough, as long as their is a defenceable logic that is uniformly practiced. The Canadian embassy is in a foreign country to serve the needs and interests of Canadians before those of locals.