Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Apr 6 2005: CBC Reports: Grewal Blasted Over Visa Follies

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.

April 6, 2005: Grewal's press release accusing Volpe of making False Allegations

Press Release from Grewal's website

Volpe Making False Allegations: Grewal

April 6, 2005 OTTAWA – Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal made the following statement today in response to recent allegations by the Minister of Immigration:

“It is untrue that I have, at any time, received or solicited any money or had any bonds posted to me personally as part of guarantees that individuals, whom I assisted in acquiring visitor visas, would respect the terms of the visas. Any allegations that I did so, or was engaged in any wrongdoing, are false and should be retracted immediately, and could be subject to legal recourse.

“It is true that my private member’s bill, through which a bond process would be established for people to guarantee they will respect the terms of visas, has my support and that of many other Members of Parliament from all parties.”

April 6, 2005: The Now: MP's $50,000-bond idea raises eyebrows

MP's $50,000-bond idea raises eyebrows

By Tom Zytaruk

A Surrey Conservative MP's unorthodox way of dealing with his constituents' requests for help in getting Canadian visitors visas for their relatives abroad is raising some eyebrows. Gurmant Grewal, MP for Newton-North Delta, has been asking constituents to sign a paper saying they'd be willing to post a bond for $50,000 to ensure the applicant returns to their country on or before the date their visa expires before he'll vouch for them.

"It's simply to judge them, if they're genuine or not," Grewal said. Grewal said he doesn't want to be among those MPs who've been "blacklisted" by the minister of immigration for vouching for someone who ultimately broke their word.

The Surrey MP said his unusual request is borne of frustration with Canada's broken immigration system. "The system is a mess and I don't want to be the victim of this messy system," he said. Grewal said he's trying to prevent abuse in the system and protect his own reputation from "being tarnished."

"There's no money changing hands," he said. "This document may not be legally enforceable, but it acts as a litmus test for me to separate people who want to abuse the system, from the genuine people."

Grewal said he's asked constituents for written assurances about 15 times and so far only one declined. "I said to them, look, if you're not prepared to vouch for your own relative, how do expect me to vouch for your relative?" Grewal told the Now.

He said he can't cash the "guarantees" as no real money or cheque is involved. "It's not enforceable."

"This system has nothing to do with cash, nothing to do with 'I owe you,'" he said.

Grewal revealed his visa policy to a parliamentary committee last week. Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland told the Province newspaper it shocked everyone in the room. "He said he's done it and I looked over at people and one turned purple," Kurland is quoted as saying.