I was quite fortunate growing up. Not only did I come of age in one of the most peaceful countries in the world, but I got to spend considerable time during my early years with my grandparents, all of whom lived long lives. It is difficult to put into words how it feels as a youngster to be on the receiving end of a grandparent’s warm touch and smile. It may be hard to explain, but everyone who has experienced it knows how special it is.
In the last few weeks I have come across more than one newspaper article, which told of the disappointment felt by a Canadian family upon learning that a beloved grandparent, living abroad, could not attend a special family event because Canadian visa officers refused a request for a visitor visa. In one case, a grandmother living in a Middle Eastern country was denied the opportunity of attending her granddaughter’s wedding in Montreal.
What a shame, I thought – to deny a grandmother and her Canadian offspring the joy of sharing the granddaughter’s wedding.
What is wrong here is that we have a system in place that effectively creates two classes of grandparents and by extension, two classes of Canadian families. The first-class Canadian families have grandparents (or parents for that matter) who live in countries like those in Western Europe, from which Canada allows visa-free travel. A German grandmother may, on a whim, board a plane and visit her Canadian family members any time she wishes to.
The second-class Canadian families have grandparents in countries like India, China, and the Philippines, from which Canada requires a visitor visa before travel. Too often these tourist visas are refused, and for reasons that are discretionary at best. How many missed family milestones? How many disappointed Canadian grandchildren? There should be only one class of Canadian families. It isn’t fair and it isn’t right.