Monday, June 13, 2005

June 13, 2005: Grewal Sought Bond, $50,000 for Visa Guarantees

Jun. 13, 2005.
Toronto Star
Document shows Grewal sought bond for visitors
MP wanted visa guarantees of $50,000 and up
Being investigated for possible breach of conduct code

LES WHITTINGTON
OTTAWA BUREAU

OTTAWA¬óGurmant Grewal, the Conservative MP now on a stress leave, has asked constituents seeking to bring a visitor to Canada to sign a "personal guarantee" that the visitor will not overstay the term of his or her visa.

Grewal revealed his use of the bonds in March, when he told a House of Commons committee he had demanded guarantees of between $50,000 and $100,000 from constituents seeking visas for their relatives.

The guarantee form, a copy of which was obtained by the Toronto Star, is believed included in the information being studied by the federal ethics commissioner to determine whether Grewal has breached the code of conduct for MPs.

As part of the undertaking on the form, the person seeking a visa is asked to sign the statement: "THAT MY/OUR current net worth is assessed at a value of $50,000. And that I/We agree to place a bond against our guarantee in the sum of ..."

The amount of the bond is not specified and the name of the person seeking to bring a visitor to Canada is blacked out on the copy of the form that has come to light.

The guarantee begins: "THAT I/WE the undersigned, residents of...in the city of Surrey in the Province of BC, seek the assistance of Gurmant Grewal, MP for Newton-North Delta, in the matter of the issuance of a Visitor Visa for. ..."

It continues: "THAT I/WE provide a personal guarantee (Joint or Severed) that the above applicant for a visitor's visa and any family members travelling with the applicant, shall leave Canada on or before the expiry of the visa. ..."

Grewal told MPs studying immigration questions on March 24 that he agreed to help out visa-seeking constituents "when they sign it (the guarantee)." And he has told the media he made such arrangements with constituents "maybe 20" times.

Grewal subsequently said he only used the guarantees to test the potential reliability of visitors before vouching for them himself. He denied he had accepted any bonds, let alone any cash payments.

But his use of the bonds in exchange for his support in visa applications continues to reverberate in immigration and government circles.

Richard Kurland, a well-known Vancouver immigration lawyer, says he has never seen anything like it.

"This is unheard of," said Kurland. "There's no place for that in our system."

Critics of Grewal's scheme say there is no indication on the forms who would get the promised bond payment if the visitor failed to leave Canada when the visa expired. Kurland said it is obviously unacceptable that any such payment would go to the MP involved.

In the past, Grewal has said he would turn the guarantee over to the federal government for possible collection if a visitor overstayed a visa. He has also said the personal guarantees were probably legally unenforceable.

Rather, the MP said the bonds were a test for those wishing to bring in visitors. He explained to the MetroValley Newspaper Group in B.C.: "You can judge a person if they refuse to sign it," he told the newspaper group.

"If the sponsor is not sure that the visitor will go back to the country of origin, why should I be vouching for that person?"

Immigration Minister Joe Volpe has asked federal ethics commissioner Bernard Shapiro to investigate Grewal's use of the bonds. Volpe also asked the RCMP to look into the matter.

Grewal has denied any wrongdoing. "I have, in fact, come up with a solutions-oriented approach to a serious problem in the immigration system" of visitors staying on in Canada after their visas expire.

Grewal is at the centre of a controversy over his secretly taping conversations he had with senior Liberals, allegedly involving political rewards he would be given if he switched parties. The MP, who left Ottawa for Vancouver last week after going on stress leave, could not be reached for comment.