PR Card Requirement Strands Canadians

CIC News
Published: January 1, 2004

Stricter security measures brought in for the new year have left dozens of landed immigrants stranded overseas, barred from Canada-bound flights because they do not have permanent-resident cards.

At least 36 people were turned away from flights to Canada since the new rules went into effect on Dec. 31, Citizenship and Immigration spokeswoman Maria Iadinardi said.

Early after the implementation, 24 people around the world were referred to Canadian consulates for travel documents because they were not carrying a card, the department reported.

The new security measures, introduced in reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, require landed immigrants returning to Canada to carry the new card or a temporary travel visa.

"Our visa officers are there -- like our migration-integrity officers are at the airport -- because we need to continue to facilitate the re-entry to Canada of legitimate permanent residents," Ms. Iadinardi said. "Our contingency plans are working."

The Immigration Department's figures on how many people are stranded don't reflect the true depth of the problem, Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann said.

"I think it's just the tip of the iceberg," Mr. Mamann said, referring to reports that while an estimated 1.5 million people in Canada are eligible for the cards, only 850,000 have been issued so far. "If you just subtract that, there's several hundred-thousand people," he said.

Other reports suggested that some airport immigration officials were turning a blind eye to the new rules, letting people without cards pass through with a warning.

But Mr. Mamann said airlines would still be less likely to take risks with passengers not carrying cards.

Mr. Mamann blamed Immigration Minister Judy Sgro for much of the confusion swirling around the cards after she hinted last month that measures would be taken to prevent permanent residents from being stranded outside Canada.

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