Canadian Network on Cuba information




















CNC Responds to Canadian Government on Visa Services for Cubans

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

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

Tel.: 902-449-4967



From the office of the Prime Minister


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


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.


Sincerely,

S. Charbonneau
Ministerial Enquiries Division


Elections 2019 in Canada: 

Questions to Party Leaders


An Open Letter to Party Leaders in the 2019 Federal Election of CanadaPrintE-mail

Re: Canada-Cuba Relations

I am writing to you on behalf of the Canadian Network On Cuba (CNC), which represents Canada-Cuba friendship and solidarity organizations across Canada, ranging from Vancouver to Halifax and with over 50,000 in membership. One of the CNC’s principal objectives is advocating that Canadian foreign policy regarding Cuba remains based on equality and respect for sovereignty and the right of selfdetermination. Consequently, the CNC is deeply concerned by recent decisions and actions of the Government of Canada. Canadians are very worried that recent developments in Ottawa-Havana relations could lead to the mirroring of the policy of the United States.

The abrupt decision earlier this year to shut down the section of its Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) Office in Embassy of Canada in Havana that processed visas and study permits is particularly perturbing. While some services have been restored, 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.

Therefore, we wish to inquire 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 2014, the world rejoiced to see the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba in a signed agreement between then Presidents Raúl Castro Barrack Obama. The world held out great hopes that relations between the two countries would be normalized. Canada helped by providing a venue for the talks which led to the improvement of those relations. However, under the administration of Donald Trump, we have witnessed a return to the policy of overt and ever escalating hostility and aggression against Cuba. The United States continues to zealously pursue and implement the extensive series of economic sanctions arrayed against the island nation, including the activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which allows U.S. companies and citizens to sue in U.S. courts not only Cuban companies but also Canadian and other international companies engaged in business and other economic activity in Cuba.

In short, Washington is waging an economic war – more than an embargo - against Cuba, with the objective of negating and extinguishing Cuba’s right to selfdetermination, sovereignty and independence. This effort to asphyxiate Cuba is the principal obstacle to this proud island nation’s social and economic development, costing the people of Cuba in excess of $100 billion. In short, the economic blockade is an egregious violation of the human rights of the people of Cuba.

For 27-consecutive years, the General Assembly of the United Nations has rejected and condemned these economic sanctions – an economic blockade- imposed on Cuba by United States. Washington’s policy, with its extra-territorial character, is a flagrant violation of the UN Charter and customary international law. In 2018, as in previous years, the global community overwhelmingly stood with Cuba, voting 189- 2 against Washington. Canada was once again counted in the vast ranks of the world’s nations resoundingly rejecting the coercive, unilateral and extra-territorial U.S. policy. Within this context, the Canadian Network On Cuba wishes to inquire what are the stances of you and your party on the following very important and salient questions:

How do you and your party intend to respond to and counter the escalation of Washington’s hostility towards Cuba by the administration of Donald Trump?

What further steps will you and your party take to oppose the economic sanctions of the United States against Cuba condemned by the United Nations and several other international organizations?

What concrete measures will you and your party implement to oppose the extraterritorial application of U.S. sanctions against Cuba, especially as they pertain to Canadian businesses and Canadian citizens? Especially regarding the enforcement of the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act?

The CNC resolutely reaffirms the inalienable right of the people of Cuba - and all other peoples - to determine their future and their political, economic and social system without external interference: a right enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-Operation Among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. Will you and your party support the right of Cuba to the return of the illegally occupied territory of the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay?

Do you and your party support Cuba’s right to self-determination and sovereignty, free of any external interference in the island's domestic affairs (i.e. affirming the right of the people of Cuba to determine their own political, economic and social arrangements without foreign diktat)?

Millions of Canadians have travelled to Cuba and having witnessed Cuban reality for themselves have come away with a profound respect and admiration for the people of Cuba and their efforts to build a society centered on independence, justice and human dignity. Irrespective of their political or ideological positions, Canadians stand for the building of genuine friendship with the island nation: relations based on mutual respect, equality and recognition of Cuba’s right to self-determination and sovereignty. Consequently, Canada's relations with Cuba should be based on mutual respect and equality, not on outmoded colonialist ideas and practices.

In closing, we wish to thank you in advance for your consideration of the issues raised and answering the questions posed by the CNC. Please find enclosed, the recently published book, Cuba Solidarity in Canada: Five Decades of People to People Foreign Relations.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Respectfully,

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

Email: isaney@hotmail.com
Tel.: 902-449-4967

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

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