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CNC Responds to Canadian Government on Visa Services for Cubans Print E-mail
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau Prime Minister of Canada

Dear Prime Minister,

Re: Reply by S. Charbonneau, Ministerial Enquiries Division regarding the processing of applications for citizens of Cuba [Reply by S. Charbonneau pasted below]

I am writing in response to the letter I received via email on On October 1, 2019 from S. Charbonneau, Ministerial Enquiries Division in the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The letter was in direct response - at the request of your office - to one of the questions posed to you in your capacity as Prime Minister of Canada and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in An Open Letter to Party Leaders in the 2019 Federal Election of Canada, sent to you on September 22, 2019.

On behalf of the Canadian Network On Cuba (CNC), I inquired: "whether you and your party will support the Government of Canada fully reopening the IRCC Office and all visa services offered to Cubans in Havana, Cuba, so that visa processing may proceed in a reasonable manner?"

In the September 22, 2019 letter, it was pointed out that despite the restoration of some services, "the continued reduction in embassy staffing has resulted - and continues to result – in unreasonable delays and significant financial obstacles for those Cubans seeking to travel to Canada, and will, amongst other things, cause significant damage to people-to-people contacts, business, cultural, academic, scientific and sporting relations."

Mr. Charbonneau's response is evasive and unsatisfactory. He states that the Ministry is taking steps to make "the application process quicker, easier and less costly for applicants," and that "Canada recognizes the importance of minimizing the impact of the service reduction on Cuban residents so that they can continue to come to Canada." However, he then notes that the Embassy of Canada in Havana:

"no longer has diplomatic staff working at the Embassy to deliver these functions. All permanent and temporary resident applications will be processed outside Cuba. Permanent residence applicants are still required to travel outside of Cuba to take their medical exam and if required, attend interviews, as these services are not available in Cuba. Applicants can choose to take their medical exam in any country where there is a panel physician authorized by the Government of Canada. Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana are the 2 closest countries with panel physicians that do not have visa requirements for Cuban nationals to visit. However, applicants can travel to any country that is most convenient for them. Applicants residing in Cuba who require an interview will be given the choice to have their interview at an IRCC office in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, or Mexico City, Mexico. All visa and permanent resident applications are being transferred to IRCC’s visa office in Mexico City to be processed. After applying, applicants will be hearing directly from that office on the next steps required for their application."

This admission cannot be reconciled with the commitment to make "the application process quicker, easier and less costly for applicants" and "the importance of minimizing the impact of the service reduction on Cuban residents so that they can continue to come to Canada." Indeed, they are mutually exclusive.

Our central concerns remain. The reduction in services have introduced unacceptable and unreasonable delays and established significant financial obstacles for those Cubans seeking to travel to Canada. These have already caused damage to people-to-people contacts, business, cultural, academic, scientific and sporting relations.

Therefore, we ask that if your government and party is committed to “minimizing the impact of the service reduction on Cuban residents so that they can continue to come to Canada," in particular, and fostering the further development of Canada-Cuba relations, in general:

Will you and your party fully support the reopening of the IRCC Office, and all visa services offered to Cubans in Havana, Cuba, so that visa processing may proceed in a reasonable manner?

Additionally, Mr. Charbonneau also stated at the end of his response that regarding "concerns about diplomatic relations with Cuba and the policies of the government of the United States, I must advise you that this does not fall under the mandate of IRCC. You may wish to send a copy of your letter to Global Affairs Canada."

While, we would welcome an answer from Global Affairs Canada to these issues, we also recognize that as Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada our queries about "diplomatic relations with Cuba and the policies of the government of the United States" fall under your ambit and spheres of responsibilities.

We look forward to your reply and thank you in advance for your consideration of the issues raised and questions posed by the Canadian Network On Cuba.

Respectfully,

Isaac Saney,
Co-Chair and National Spokesperson
Canadian Network On Cuba

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Tel.: 902-449-4967

Mailing address:
Canadian Network On Cuba
209 Oakwood Avenue
Toronto, ON M6E 2V3
www.canadiannetworkoncuba.ca

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The Reply by S. Charbonnea below is in response to the CNC Open Letter to Party Leaders. Click here to read the open letter

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Dear Isaac Saney:

The Office of the Prime Minister has kindly forwarded to the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, a copy of your correspondence of September 22, 2019, regarding the processing of applications for citizens of Cuba. I have been asked to respond to your concerns.

I appreciate you sharing the circumstances which prompted you to write. Since the visa office located at the Embassy of Canada in Havana, Cuba closed on May 8, 2019, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been working diligently to ensure that the processing of applications from Cuba continues smoothly and that applicants have access to the services they need to come to Canada.

As of August 1, 2019, the following services originally offered at IRCC’s Havana visa office will be once again available at the same location in the Canadian Embassy:

- biometrics collection (fingerprints and a photo) - passport drop-off and visa pick-up

The Department is reinstating some of the services originally offered at the visa office to minimize the impact of the closure on applicants and facilitate their travel to Canada. These will make the application process quicker, easier and less costly for applicants.

Canada recognizes the importance of minimizing the impact of the service reduction on Cuban residents so that they can continue to come to Canada. We will continue to explore other mitigation measures and alternative service channels to improve visa and immigration services offered to Cuban residents.

Only IRCC officials have the authority to make decisions and oversee the processing of applications, and conduct permanent residence interviews. IRCC no longer has diplomatic staff working at the Embassy to deliver these functions. All permanent and temporary resident applications will be processed outside Cuba. Permanent residence applicants are still required to travel outside of Cuba to take their medical exam and if required, attend interviews, as these services are not available in Cuba.

Applicants can choose to take their medical exam in any country where there is a panel physician authorized by the Government of Canada. Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana are the 2 closest countries with panel physicians that do not have visa requirements for Cuban nationals to visit. However, applicants can travel to any country that is most convenient for them. Applicants residing in Cuba who require an interview will be given the choice to have their interview at an IRCC office in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, or Mexico City, Mexico.

All visa and permanent resident applications are being transferred to IRCC’s visa office in Mexico City to be processed. After applying, applicants will be hearing directly from that office on the next steps required for their application.

Please consult IRCC’s latest Web Notice for information on what services are available at the Canadian embassy.

With regard to your concerns about diplomatic relations with Cuba and the policies of the government of the United States, I must advise you that this does not fall under the mandate of IRCC. You may wish to send a copy of your letter to Global Affairs Canada.

Thank you for taking the time to write. I trust that this information is helpful to you.

Sincerely,

S. Charbonneau
Ministerial Enquiries Division
 
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