“Fellow Citizens and Residents – Good Morning.
On Saturday last, the Government of St. Kitts & Nevis issued a press release explaining that effective today, November 24, 2014, Kittitians and Nevisians travelling to Canada, like the nationals of the vast majority of Caribbean nations, and like the nationals of some 147 countries, will now do so with a visa issued by the Government of Canada.
The Government explained in that press release that applying for a visa can now done on line, by mail, or in person, and that all applications will be processed at Canada’s High Commission in Trinidad & Tobago. The release also explained that there will be no need for Kittitians and Nevisians to travel to Trinidad & Tobago to apply for a Canadian visa. I repeat – there will be no need for Kittitians and Nevisians to travel to Trinidad & Tobago to apply for a Canadian visa. Applications will be processed within two weeks, and visas of up to 10 years duration will be available.
I am here this morning to expand on the contents of Saturday’s press release.
First, some context:
There was a time one could walk into the buildings of the United States Congress in Washington DC, or drive along the Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, unimpeded.
There was also a time when travelling internationally meant purchasing an airline ticket and taking a leisurely stroll onto the aircraft. No removal of shoes, no concerns about gels or fluids in our carry-on items, and certainly no body scanners.
And then there was 911.
Since then, countries large and small, have been constantly reviewing their immigration and national security policies – sometimes independently, sometimes in response to regional or international agreements.
On October 31, 2014 a soldier guarding a war memorial in Canada’s capitol was shot dead. Seconds later, gun shots erupted in the halls of that country’s parliament. On November 3, 2014, Alicia A. Caldwell of the Associated Press reported that the U.S. Homeland Security Department had announced that it was imposing additional screening requirements for Europeans and travelers from other countries who usually do not require visas to travel to the United States. For the first time, therefore, persons born in England, France, Germany and other key U.S. allies were going to have to “provide more passport data, more contact information, and information on any aliases before being able to travel to the United States.” That Associated Press report also went on to state that U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, had “announced extra security at various federal…..buildings….in….major American cities following the fatal shooting in Canada’s capital.”
The point that I am making, Fellow Nationals, is that countries review and change their policies routinely in order to protect their interests and their people. And so do we. Our country is a stable parliamentary democracy, led by duly elected representatives, and we take our responsibility to protect and advance the interests of this nation and its people very seriously.
On Friday last, a Government of Canada diplomat was good enough to travel to Basseterre to meet with me, as a matter of courtesy, to share with the Government the fact that in pursuit of Canada’s security interests, Kittitians and Nevisians, like the citizens of the vast majority of Caribbean countries, and like the citizens of 147 countries around the world, would now travel to Canada on a visa.
St. Kitts-Nevis has a Citizenship by Investment Programme, as we all know, and Canada wishes to be able to determine, for itself, exactly who does, and does not enter its territory. When providing this information on its website on Saturday last, the Government of Canada clearly stated: “Canada continues to welcome genuine visitors from St. Kitts and Nevis and has a number of programs, including a multiple-entry visa, to make it easy for such legitimate visitors to travel to Canada.” I repeat, because I have been advised that some persons have been disseminating erroneous information, “Canada continues to welcome genuine visitors from St. Kitts & Nevis and has a number of programs, including a multiiple-entry visa, to make it easy for such legitimate visitors to travel to Canada.”
The St. Kitts-Nevis Citizenship by Investment program has funded projects from agriculture to energy, and infrastructure to health – all of which expanded opportunities for the people of St. Kitts & Nevis and improved our people’s quality of life. This Government is therefore committed to ensuring that the program continues to work and that it continues to work well. And to do this, the Government shall always review and revise, as necessary, in order to properly meet the needs of the people of St. Kitts & Nevis, and in order to protect the constructive relations we have so carefully built with nations across the globe.
And the Government will always seek ways to strengthen the security features of the St. Kitts-Nevis passport. This type of vigilance is important today, and it will be equally important 20 years from now. In light of this, I wish to share with you some of the more recent measures that the Government has put in place where our passports are concerned:
(i) Effective February 2014, any previous names of any St. Kitts-Nevis passport holders have been listed on the passport’s observation page.
(ii) Effective July 2014, the place of birth of all St. Kitts-Nevis passport holders has been printed in the passport, as opposed to being accessible only electronically.
(iii) New St. Kitts-Nevis passports are being issued to replace any passports in existence which do not indicate place of birth.
Permit me to remind us all that the federal Cabinet of St. Kitts-Nevis is comprised of nationals of St. Kitts-Nevis. This is our home. We are therefore deeply committed to ensuring the wellbeing of this nation, and the welfare of its people. In addition, we were elected to protect the interests of this country. This we have been doing, and this we shall continue to do. The strong relations that exist between the St. Kitts-Nevis Government and governments around the world are evident in the range of collaborative undertakings that have moved our country so steadily forward. The Government has led our country with focus, discipline, and competence. Our performance during the global crisis – which brought many nations to their knees – made this clear. As does our demonstrated commitment to the protection and upliftment of our nation, as a whole.
Canada is an important ally, and an ally of longstanding. Your Government values the strong relations which, over the years, Canada and St. Kitts-Nevis have built. Canada has important security concerns. The Government recognizes this. And the Government of St. Kitts-Nevis shall do all in its power to respect and accommodate the concerns of so important an ally.