The Typhoon Haiyan Visas: Why All the Secrecy?

By Andy Semotiuk | May 28, 2014

Toronto immigration lawyer Andy SemotiukToronto immigration lawyer Andy Semotiuk: You may remember that after Typhoon Haiyan, the Canadian government said that they would fast-track visa applications from Filipinos. The Toronto Star is wondering how it went:

In the devastating aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, the Canadian government touted a promise to fast-track visa applications for Filipinos “significantly and personally affected” by the deadly superstorm.

Six months later, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is keeping information on how the special measures fared secret.

The government will say only that roughly 1,100 applications have been approved; officials won’t reveal how many typhoon victims applied, how many were rejected and how long it took to process the emergency claims.

Immigration has ignored the Toronto Star’s repeated requests for this information over the past two weeks.

“I cannot think of any reason why they would not answer this question,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, an organization that advocates for a more open and accountable government.

This article touches on the question of what are the legitimate boundaries of secrecy that a government should protect. Edward Snowden’s revelations alerted us to just how much a government can withhold from us, and showed us that we need to be vigilant in regards to watching the watchers.
In my view there is very little that needs to be kept secret. It should be the government’s duty to disclose everything, unless it seeks a court order to keep some item secret, and then only for a limited time.
The probable reason for the government not revealing the numbers in this case is because the truth will be shocking. It is time for an application under the access to privacy legislation to uncover the truth.

Andy Semotiuk is a Canadian and US immigration lawyer with immigration law firm Pace Immigration. You can learn more about Andy at My Work Visa.