Runners denied entry to Canada

Posted by admin on Apr 9th, 2010

By ALISON KORN, QMI Agency, April 9, 2010 11:31am

The head of the organizing committee for the 17th World University Cross Country Championship is “disappointed and embarrassed” by the fact that runners from several countries have been denied visas to the event, to be held April 11 in Kingston. Athletes and officials from China, Sri Lanka and Nepal have been told by Citizenship and Immigration Canada that they won’t be allowed to enter Canada because there’s a risk they may not return home afterwards. Tajikistan’s team has been denied visas because they competed in the Asian Athletics Championships, an IAAF-sanctioned event in Iran. Five other countries are still waiting to hear.

Shane Lakins, president of the organizing committee, fumed that the rejections are ruining Canada’s reputation for hosting world championship sporting events.

“World class athletes travel the world,” Lakin said. “If as a normal citizen of Tajikistan you went to Iran and then want to come to Canada, I get the red flags, but this is an athlete competing for their country at an internationally sanctioned competition.

“On the heels of a very successful Vancouver Olympics you would think Canada would have their act together when it comes to allowing athletes into the country to participate at world championship events, but (we) are finding this is not the case. We are disappointed and embarrassed that athletes will not have the opportunity to represent their countries at a prestigious world championship event because of bureaucracy getting in the way of common sense. It makes us wonder how Canada was able to successfully host the recent Olympic Games.”

But there’s a big difference between the Vancouver Winter Olympics and these cross-country championships — namely, the countries of origin of the athletes. While most winter sport nations are wealthy, with athletes who don’t tend to defect, summer sports like cross-country running are practiced widely in poorer countries and are more likely to have athletes abandon their team and make refugee claims.

The most glaring example was the 2001 Francophone Games in Ottawa. More than 100 participants made requests for protection after the event.

“In the past, several international events have resulted in delegates not respecting Canada’s immigration law by not leaving when they had promised they would,” Rejean Cantlon of Citizenship and Immigration Canada said in an email. “A number of factors are considered by visa officers prior to issuing a visa. These factors include the person’s ties to the home country, the purpose of the visit, the person’s family and economic situation, the overall economic and political stability of the home country, and invitations from Canadian hosts. When a visa officer refuses an application, it is because the applicant does not meet the requirements set out in Canada’s immigration law.”

In an interesting coincidence, this week Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced sweeping changes to Canada’s clogged refugee system. His office noted that Canada’s slow-moving asylum system also attracts more claims per capita than any comparable Western democracy and 58% of these claims are unfounded. The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada now has approximately 60,000 asylum claimants waiting for a decision on their claim with the average hearing occurring in 19 months.

But for all the thousands who are scamming the system, there is also the story of wrestler Daniel Igali, who competed for Nigeria at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, B.C. and stayed on. After receiving Canadian citizenship, Igali won gold for Canada at the 2000 Olympics, has run for political office, earned a masters degree and established a charitable foundation.

I’d say we’re pretty lucky he stayed.


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