HYDERABAD: Speaking exclusively to Deccan Chronicle, while on a short trip to Hyderabad, Cameron MacKay, High Commissioner of Canada to India, said that while they were aware and apologetic over the inconveniences caused to potential travellers in all categories owing to long delays, running into over two years in some cases, they were hoping to set it right and bring it back to normalcy by early next year.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q) Canada from afar feels like a perfect country in a troubled world — open, tolerant, embracing, liberal, free and prosperous, where people from across the globe find a home. How does it feel to be a Canadian?
All Canadians are extremely proud of the success we have built as a country. We have a strong democracy, excellent institutions, economic success, and an international reputation for justice and tolerance. But we also recognise we are, like every other country, also deeply flawed. There is intolerance, bigotry, and conflict between communities. Our approach is to recognise and identify these and fight against them. I don’t want anyone to think Canada is perfect, it is not — but we try to become better all the time.
A key factor is as flawed as they are, our democratic institutions are still functioning very well. Democracy is at the heart of Canadian success.
Q) Every time there is an election in America, there is a threat of mass exodus into Canada once the results are out.
(Laughs) We welcome them. But seriously, Canada is built on the idea of immigration. Less than five per cent of the Canadian population today are indigenous. Initially most of the immigrants from Europe, starting with the west, then east and south. Then we have lots of people from Asia, the Indian Diaspora in Canada is enormous, then we have a huge Diaspora from China, the Philippines, Ukraine… practically from everywhere.
The key to success in making this work is tolerance. Everyone must be tolerant of each other, their faiths, language, the food, culture, the diversity; we must all embrace each other.
Q) Great values… democracy, tolerance, but increasingly hard to live by in most parts of the world today. Is democracy under threat?
Democracy globally, without a doubt, is under pressure. And in some countries it is a direct threat. Our response to that must be to make democracy better, not only stronger. It must be made deeper; always making sure the government is the servants of the people, not their master. Then, the arc of history will bend towards more democracy, more justice.
Q) How does Canada see India as in its global view? What are the key priority areas in bilateral relationships?
We have a huge people to people relationship. Over 1.5 million successful Indo-Canadian citizens in every walk of life as part of the Canadian experience. Scores of Indo-Canadians have made it big in different walks of life — politics, business, arts and entertainment. And we want more. More students, more businesses and investors; we seek more flights, more travel engagements.
India tops in all visa categories for our country.
In business, we have over $100 billion of annual trade, of which, Canada invests over $70 billion portfolio investment into India. We have pension funds investing here, Fairfax… Canadian businesses and companies operating here, and direct investment. The investment in India is in many sectors, infrastructure is a favourite. Then manufacturing, trading and services, etc.
On government to government relations, we are strong. There will always be irritations in our relationships, given we have different world views, different histories and different geo-locations and we are bound to bump into each other. But my goal is to help build such a strong relationship in the rest of the areas, so that even when irritations crop up, we can handle them. And I am very optimistic.
We have re-launched our negotiations for a bilateral trade and investment treaty in March this year. The first step is the Early Progress Treaty. Our industry ministers are speaking monthly. They will be meeting on the sidelines of the G20 and we are trying to get this early progress treaty done by year-end. That we hope will lead to a more comprehensive business treaty, which can then grow the $100 bn to a larger size.
Q) We can’t not talk Visas. Everyone, especially job-seekers and students, are very distressed over the long waits for Canadian Visas?
Canada has the world’s most open immigration system. And in the past, we have had the most efficient system. We will get back to it. But this year, post the pandemic, we have a global visa backlog of 2.7 million. We are seeing a 55 per cent surge of applications. It is an enormous pressure on an already pressurised system.
I want to apologise to all Indians who have had to wait. We will get on top of it but it will take three to four months before we are back to our normal visa processing.
Q) How much of India have you been able to experience?
My favourite Indian movie to date is RRR. As a good Canadian, I have had good Indian food from all parts. But currently, in our capital city of Ottawa, the two best restaurants are south Indian.
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