Ottawa to drop demand of visas for Polish visitors
OMAR EL AKKAD
From Friday's Globe and Mail
February 22, 2008 at 3:50 AM EST
OTTAWA — Polish citizens will soon no longer need visas to visit Canada, a source in Ottawa said.
According to the source, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley will announce next week that Canada is lifting the visa requirement for Polish citizens - something that Polish Canadian groups have spent years advocating.
"They're saying, 'We're a Western liberal democracy, we're with you in Afghanistan ... why are we not being treated like other countries?' " the source said.
A spokesperson with Citizenship and Immigration Canada did not confirm that an announcement is imminent.
The lifting of visa requirements for Polish citizens would be the latest in a series of such changes in Canadian visa policies for Eastern European countries. In late October of last year, Ms. Finley announced that citizens of the Czech Republic and the Republic of Latvia no longer require a temporary resident visa to visit Canada. (On the other hand, citizens of such countries as Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria do require visas.)
In all, about 50 countries are exempt from Canadian visa requirements.
The relationship between Canada and Poland came into the public spotlight late last year, after the death of Polish national Robert Dziekanski in Vancouver. Mr. Dziekanski died within minutes of being tasered at Vancouver International Airport last October. His death sparked myriad inquiries in Canada, and prompted Canada's ambassador to Poland, David Preston, to express his "deep sympathy" to Polish officials.
Poland is Canada's largest economic partner in Central and Eastern Europe, with more than $1.2-billion in annual trade.
As a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the country has also dispatched more than 1,000 troops to Afghanistan.