Canadian leader backs visa office in Mumbai, official status for Punjabi

September 29th, 2008 - 1:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Sep 29 (IANS) Canadian opposition leader Jack Layton has promised support for a new visa office in Mumbai and official status for the Punjabi language in Canada if he becomes prime minister after the Oct 14 polls.Jack, whose New Democratic Party (NDP) has fielded a record 14 Indian Canadian candidates to woo the million-strong community, said his party will also roll back a newly passed immigration bill that the community finds discriminatory.

India will be a priority nation for his government if it comes to power and he will visit New Delhi at the earliest, Layton told IANS in an interview.

Layton noted that given the increasing influence of India in the international business and political realms and the increasing number of immigration applications in India, “it would only make sense to expand our diplomatic and administrative presence in India.

“A visa office in Mumbai is one way that increased presence could be realized and my party government will be open to studying the merits of this proposal,” Layton added.

He said that if he becomes prime minister, “I would look forward to visiting India early in my term to discuss a variety of opportunities that exist to strengthen ties between our countries”.

Layton also made clear his displeasure over a new bill that nixes India’s chances of becoming the number one source of immigration to Canada.

“When the Conservative government tried to sneak through unfair changes to our immigration system, my party stood up and said no. We were very disappointed that other opposition Liberal Party did not stand with us and instead abstained and let Prime Minister Harper get his way. The only way to stop these changes is to send more NDP MPs to parliament,” he contended.

Noting that the NDP had a “better plan” to ensure fairness, boost Canada’s productivity and ease family reunification, Layton added: “My party launched the Creating Fair Opportunities plan to recognize foreign professionals. We fought for ending end punishing processing fees on refugees and immigrant women and children escaping domestic violence.

“We tabled legislation to allow any citizen or landed immigrant to sponsor one family member from outside the family classification for immigration,” he pointed out.

Layton replied in the affirmative when asked whether he would support demands that Punjabi, which the latest census says is the fastest growing language in Canada, be given official status.

“We are aware of the growing number of Punjabi-speaking Canadians and appreciate their rich legacy to Canadian history. We are committed to having their valuable contribution recognized by Canada.

“This includes ensuring services in Punjabi, recognizing it as being the fourth most spoken language in Canada. Already, we have seen some cities and municipalities putting up street signs and store signs in Punjabi.

There is also a rise in the number of public schools and universities offering courses in Punjabi. We welcome it and will encourage more such initiatives,” Layton said.

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