Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Grewal blasted over visa guarantees

B.C. MP blasted over visa guarantees
Last updated Apr 6 2005 10:11 AM PDT
CBC News
VANCOUVER – Canada's Immigration Minister says the conduct of Newton-North Delta Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal "besmirches everybody and everything" to do with immigration.
Joe Volpe says Grewal admitted he has asked his constituents to give him refundable guarantees of $50,000 to $100,000 in exchange for his help in getting temporary visas for visiting friends and family.
The guarantees were to ensure some "high-risk" visitors would return home when the visas expired.
Volpe said he has asked the federal ethics commissioner to investigate.
Grewal told the Commons citizenship and immigration committee last month that he hasn't cashed any of the guarantees from constituents. But Volpe said that's not the point.
Volpe said the process of granting temporary visas must be free of political interference.
"It unfortunately brings the whole system into disrepute," he said.
"And you have people who think that a system that is supposed to be open and accessible to all – even with all of its faults – is now only accessible to those who are able to put $50,000 down at the table, for a local member of Parliament to intervene."
Grewal's office in Ottawa said the MP was not available to discuss this issue. But a spokesperson said Grewal has never asked for a bond from a constituent.
And a Vancouver immigration lawyer said he doesn't believe Grewal is trying to make a profit, but was just testing how an immigration bill he has proposed might work in practice.
INTERVIEW: The Early Edition's Rick Cluff speaks with Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.
Grewal has introduced a private member's bill that asks the federal government to collect such a bond from visitors when immigration officers are worried they might try to stay in Canada when their visa expires.
"He honestly believed, in my view, that he had done the right thing," said immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who testified in front of the standing committee debating the bill. "The optics are not good, but his intentions were pure."
Volpe said that will be for the ethics commissioner to decide.


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