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This article was published 16/4/2016 (1406 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Brandon’s economy — and the country’s — could benefit if Ukrainians had access to visa-free travel, according to a Winnipeg man.
Nick Krawetz created Petition e-33, a document that requests the Canadian government replace the tedious process of getting a travel visa with getting a biometric passport.
"The current, cumbersome visa restrictions for Ukrainians undermine job creation and economic growth in Canada and in Ukraine," Krawetz said. "If the government is serious about increasing economic investment to countries, these restrictions serve as a barrier to filling those goals."
Krawetz is an active member of Winnipeg’s Ukrainian community, but his ideas extend beyond the Perimeter Highway. He said Canada could take inspiration from the European Union.
The EU is expected to give the green light to Ukrainians for travel without a visa, but with a biometric passport. That’s a combination between a traditional passport and one with technology such as fingerprint and retinal recognition.
"Once that happens, the European Parliament and the majority of EU member states will also have to say, OK," Krawetz said. "So I’m saying if the EU is willing to do this, Canada should at least look
at this issue and kind of re-energize discussions."
Canada has a visa-free travel agreement with the EU, so the switch would make sense, Krawetz said.
"There’s checks and balances in place that citizens in those countries have to acquire electronic travel authorization," he said. "They just don’t have to go through this cumbersome process of providing documents like transcripts, financial statements, letters of support from individuals in Canada."
Petition e-33 has garnered more than 2,180 signatures from Canada and other countries. Krawetz said the entire NDP caucus has signed in support. As of Thursday, more than 399 Manitobans signed their names, including Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire.
"We have a great population of Ukrainian people living right here in Brandon, and we’re getting new immigrants all the time," Maguire said. "For friendly countries like (Canada), less restrictions would make it so they can get back and forth for families and friends."
Krawetz agreed, saying people in Westman would get more family visits. But not everyone thinks that way.
"There’s a perception out there that (Ukrainians) will come here, they’ll overstay their welcome, they’ll go underground, and the government will lose track of them," Krawetz said.
But international safety isn’t a concern when it comes to this issue, according to Maguire.
"Having these people coming in without a visa doesn’t mean we don’t keep track of them," he said.
"They still need passports and that sort of thing to get into the country, so there certainly would be traceability of the situation."
Krawetz said Brandon’s tourism and education sectors could benefit from more Ukrainians. He works for the Association of Manitoba Municipalities and mentioned tourism improvement comes up a lot.
"We want to talk tourism, we want to attract people to our communities. Well, at the same time, the government is restricting that and the mobility between countries," he said.
But it’s not just about the dollar signs. Visa-free travel would make it easier for international students to come to Canada. That would increase economic activity, but also promote "knowledge sharing and perhaps enhanced reform efforts back in Ukraine when these students go back," Krawetz said.
For Maguire, signing the petition means showing international support
"It’s an opportunity to make sure the Ukrainian population knows exactly how supportive Canadians are of their situation," he said. "They’ve been very much decimated by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s exploitation of eastern Ukraine."
The deadline for signatures is May 11. After that, Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman MP James Bezan will take the petition to the House of Commons.
From there, it’s a waiting game. It’s tough to say when a decision would be announced, but Krawetz said it could be around the same time Ukrainians get visa-free travel to the EU.
"We’ll just have to wait and see what happens with both," he said. "My goal right now is to get support from all levels of government, not just federal, and I’m very encouraged so far."
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