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Canadian Immigration Screwing Canadian Musicians
The AFM Canada learned recently that the Canadian Immigration office is proposing to open the border to all musicians provided they do not work in Canada for an "extended" period of time. Just what an extended period of time is defined as has not been specified! It would appear that if a band from the United States wanted to come and do a weekend gig in Canada, under this new proposal, there would be no need for the band to secure a validation from the HRDC offices. The borders would be completely open to them. The AFM would not be adverse to this proposition if we had a reciprocal arrangement with the US. That however, is not the case. The US is making it increasingly more and more difficult for Canadians to enter their country.
Not so long ago, it only took the Federation as little as 24 hours to secure a US work permit to provide access to our Canadian bands. Then the law changed and it then took 30 days to secure the same work permit. It now takes 90 days and $130.00 US to secure the work permit. Of course, if you care to add an extra $1,000.00 US, the INS will process our application within 15 days upon receipt of our application. (Money talks)
The Canadian branch of the AFM has embarked on a letter writing campaign to all MP's. We need your help. A copy of my letter to the Director of Economic Policy and Programs, Selection Branch, is printed here for your perusal. It would be appreciated if you would also write to him and ensure that a copy is forwarded to the Honourable, Denis Coderre, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Mr. Coderre's email address: Coderre.D@parl.gc.ca For the email addresses of the various members of parliament, you can go to www.parl.gc.ca to locate your representative.
My letter follows:
January 18, 2002
Mr. Mark Davidson, Director, Economic Policy and Programs,
Selection Branch, Citizenship and Immigration Canada
300 Slater Street, 7th Floor,
Dear Mr. Davidson,
I have just become aware of the information contained in the December 15th, 2001 edition of the Canada Gazette, wherein it is stated that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration is contemplating changing its procedures, rules and regulations regarding the validation process used to admit foreign entertainers (musicians) into Canada. On behalf of the 1700 professional musicians that I represent in Vancouver, BC, I wish to go on record as being adamantly opposed to this new position.
The Gazette article states that there have been extensive consultations with stakeholders. Question: Did your officials speak with any officers of the musician's associations across Canada? Our parent organization, The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, represents some 17,000 professional Canadian musicians across this country. Did any of your people consult with the AF of M?
If the Canadian government endorses a policy of permitting bands and entertainers of all genres unencumbered access to our night clubs, dance halls, neighbourhood pubs and the like, it will annihilate the music industry as we currently know it in Canada. Canadian jobs will be lost en-masse. American bands will flood into our cities and work for free just to gain exposure to our Canadian markets. In the meantime, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service continues to increase its protectionist ways by demanding that our Canadian musicians apply for P-2 work permits a minimum of 90 days in advance of any engagement they might have secured. In addition, Canadian musicians must pay $130.00 US per application to work in the US without any guarantee that their application will be approved. Further, if an additional $1,000.00 US is paid to the US Immigration, they will give an application a priority review within 15 days of the application being received. Even with the additional $1000.00 US being paid there is no guarantee that the application will be approved.
I mention all of the above in an attempt to illustrate to you how unfair the system is to Canadians. Foreign bands coming across the borders looking for greener pastures will, I guarantee you, displace our indigenous musicians. Without the current requirement that foreign club bands be paid the minimum current industry standard rates for the same services the local Canadian musician must charge, the various entertainment buyers will have thousands of bands knocking on their doors wanting to work for the exposure. At the present time, if a buyer wants an American band, he has to pay for it at the minimum local professionally established rates. If an open door policy were permitted, what employer in his right mind would not be happy with securing free, professional entertainment from the US or any other country for that matter?
In Vancouver, we have been working closely with the local HRDC officers for the past three years. In accordance with an agreement we signed with our local HRDC office, (copy enclosed) they have been forwarding all applications to our office to ensure that proper fees are being paid to the foreign musicians. Some interesting numbers have been generated to show how our involvement has curtailed the influx of foreign musicians. In the two-year period from January 1995 to January 1, 1997 there were 1370 validations approved by the local offices of the HRDC. That was before the Vancouver Musicians' Association became involved with the HRDC. In the two-year period commencing January 1, 2000 and ending January 1, 2002 the number of validations declined to 704. All things being equal, our office was partially responsible for securing an additional 666 jobs for our Canadian musicians.
Mr. Davidson, I urge the government to reconsider walking down this ‘open door' policy. If this policy comes to fruition, the Canadian government will be displacing the work places of thousands of Canadian professional musicians. I don't think that is what the Canadian government was elected to do.
I look forward to receiving a response to this letter.
cc Honourable, Denis Coderre, Minister for Canadian Immigration
Honourable Tom Banks, Senator
Mr. Bruno Jean
Mr. David Jandrisch, Vice President from Canada, AFM
Mr. Eddy Bayens, President, Canadian Conference of Musicians