According to the Oxford dictionary, “Dismay” means “to make afraid or discouraged at the prospect of trouble or danger; fill with apprehension or alarm; daunt; a loss of courage or confidence at the prospect of trouble or danger.”
It was one of two words used in the first press statement expressing sentiments of the Saint Lucian Government following Canadian visa imposition for Saint Lucians travelling to Canada. The other word was “disappointment.”
“The Government of Saint Lucia is disappointed and dismayed by the decision of the Government of Canada to impose visas on Saint Lucians who wish to travel to Canada,” read the brief statement issued September 12. This, the same day visa restrictions were to take effect, following a notice by Canadian Immigration authorities September 11, 2012. On that day Dr Kenny Anthony addressed the nation on diplomatic ties with Taiwan. But for many, that night, the BB broadcasts and Facebook postings about the Canada visa situation took precedence.
“The Government of Saint Lucia deeply regrets that the Canadian Government did not give it an opportunity to address the concerns regarding the claims of “unreliable travel documents” allegedly held by some Saint Lucians,” the press statement said. A full statement by the Government subsequent to the receipt of an official communique from the Canadian Government was promised.
In the days which followed there were back and forth sound bites in the media from both former Prime Minister Stephenson King and Dr Kenny Anthony as to who knew what about the Canadian issue. This, even as more than 40 Saint Lucians were deported from Canada in the last two months, half of them in September alone. Dr Anthony has since stated that he was informed by the High Commission in Barbados, “that the former Prime Minister was repeatedly alerted to the danger that Saint Lucia faced.”
A memorandum dated Tuesday, July 13, 2010 from the Consul General of Saint Lucia in Toronto, Mr.Stephen Julian informed King of two new pieces of legislation dealing with immigration to Canada and the likely impact on Saint Lucians.
“We can expect a dramatic increase in deportations of Saint Lucian refugee claimants in Canada and consequently, a further justification for the imposition of visa restrictions on our nationals,” Julien was quoted as saying.
A week later and the Government is now describing the situation as “unfortunate” a word which can mean “characterized by bad luck or misfortune,” “regrettable” or “deplorable.” A press statement issued by the Government on Wednesday September 20, titled “An Unfortunate Blow,” noted receipt of official communication by the Canadian authorities following the visa imposition. The Canadian Government said that the decision to remove the visa exemption from Saint Lucian travelers was not taken lightly. However, Saint Lucia does not meet Canada’s criteria for an exemption from the visa
requirement due to the sustained flow of asylum claimants to Canada and a
high rate of immigration violations,” the press statement read.
Wednesday’s statement confirmed that Dr Anthony was formally told of the Canadian concerns at a meeting in Antigua on August 11, 2012, between the Prime Minister and the Canadian High Commissioner. The High Commissioner indicated that Canada was concerned by the high number of asylum claims from Saint Lucian and the significant number of Saint Lucians, who had criminal convictions, and had legally changed their names and returned to Canada with new passports under new names.
The Prime Minister conceded awareness of the claims for asylum but claimed had never received complaints about the travel documents. He reportedly requested time to address the concerns of the Government of Canada, the High Commissioner promising to convey his request.
However, on September 10, 2012 the High Commissioner advised that the Government of Canada did not accede to the request of the Prime Minister for time and would be issuing a statement the next day, to announce the imposition of visas. The Cabinet, the Government said was duly briefed.
Therefore, according to the facts from the Government, one day ahead of the Prime Minister’s advertised address to the nation it was known that Canada would be imposing visas on Saint Lucians. Why then wasn’t the address broadened to talk about Saint Lucia’s foreign policy, mention the visa imposition and the announcement of diplomatic ties?
Instead, listeners and viewers were treated to a tirade of the presumed ills and sins of Taiwan and the former Taiwanese ambassador before being told that the Government would stay with Taiwan while the SLP would stick like glue to China.
This also begs the question to as to why all the adjectives and sounding alarm bells of surprise and finger pointing as to who knew what and did what about it when the horses were already out of the stable.
Why the “considerable distress” as the Government press statement reads about “the blanket statement emanating from ‘Citizenship and Immigration Canada’ that visa requirements were imposed because of unreliable travel documents.”
The Prime Minister will shortly be dispatching a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister urging him to reconsider the decision of the Government of Canada.
Let us hope that this letter has some more appropriate adjectives and makes a better case as to how we intend on dealing with such issues here like lapses in immigration, immigration, the police and home affairs working closely together and the ease at which illegal nationals from Guyana, Jamaica and Nigeria have in the past few months been able to lay their hands on Saint Lucian Passports. Let us hope too that WestJet can be talked into continued support for tourism with airlift in and out of Canada, even after their load factors diminished since the visa restriction and a reported fine was imposed on the airline for carrying a Saint Lucian national with “incomplete” residency documents just last week.