Following Canada’s introduction of a visa requirement for citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis, the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Patrice Nisbett, said in a statement that they will take strong and decisive measures to address the concerns surrounding the security of their passports.
Speaking on Freedom Radio last Monday, Nisbett said that the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis valued its strong relations with Canada and promised that the government would do everything in its power to address the apprehensions of the North American nation.
“Countries review and change their policies routinely in order to protect their interests and their people and so do we. Canada is an important ally, an ally of long-standing. Your government values the strong relations which over the years Canada and St Kitts-Nevis have built,” he said.
Last week, Ottawa announced visa restrictions that would be effective from November 22 and would be applicable to citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis along with “the vast majority of Caribbean nations and citizens of some 147 countries” where visas are required to enter Canada.
Ottawa released a statement on their official website saying that Canada will continue to “welcome genuine visitors from St Kitts-Nevis and has a number of programs including a multiple entry visa to make it easy for such legitimate visitors to travel to Canada”.
There has been speculation that Canada’s decision might have been influenced by the case of an Iranian national who had travelled to Canada holding a diplomatic passport issued by St. Kitts and Nevis. The Iranian national had claimed that he was visiting Canada to attend meetings with the Canadian Prime Minister. However upon investigation these claims proved to be false, leading to security concerns among the Canadian officials. This scandal was also followed by an advisory from the US government issued in May this year, with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issuing a warning that the citizenship by investment program (CIP) offered by St Kitts and Nevis was being abused by foreigners to engage in illicit financial activities.
These incidents have led to heightened apprehensions about the country’s Citizenship by Investment Program. However, Nisbett drew attention to the program’s benefits, pointing out that CIP had funded various projects from agriculture to health to energy “all of which expanded opportunities for the people of St Kitts-Nevis.” He promised that his government is “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 and 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 and Nevis passport. This type of vigilance is important today and it will be equally important 20 years from now,” he added.
One of the key changes in St Kitts and Nevis passports will be the inclusion of details about the holder’s place of birth. Nisbett said that new passports will be issued to replace those which do not indicate the person’s place of birth.
Nisbett also pointed out that the relations between St Kitts and Nevis and Canada were healthy and were not affected by the Iranian case as has been “erroneously” reported. He referred to a statement released on the Canadian government’s website which says, “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.”
Defending the government’s handling of the issue, Nisbett added “The Federal Cabinet of St. Kitts and Nevis is comprised of nationals of St. Kitts and 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 and Nevis Government and governments around the world are evident in the range of collaborative undertakings that have moved our country so steadily forward.”