Tangle of red tape
Immigrant's family runs into visa problems

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 08/99) - Sirius Diamonds trainer Peter Finnemore has been in Yellowknife two months from his former home in Belgium.

He has 35 years experience in the diamond industry and qualified to enter Canada after a Human Resources and Labour Canada assessment said that his job could not be filled by a Canadian.

His problem is that his two adult children, aged 19 and 20, are not able to attend university or get work permits in Canada because of their foreign status.

"My family are here but it's just that we'd like to lead a normal life here where my children can go to school and to be able to work," said Finnemore, who is originally from South Africa.

"This is where the problem is lying at the moment, but I'm sure eventually I'll be able to sort it out."

Finnemore said not only have his children's efforts to get work permits been a "rigmarole," they are not even able to attend college here until they have been in Yellowknife for one year, he said.

Still, they are able to remain in Canada -- just not work or go to school.

"We started the process in April and it's still going on," he said.

"It's terribly frustrating but this is the system and we'll have to live with it."

Ann Cull, a program consultant with Human Resources Development Canada in Yellowknife, said there needs to be a fairly large justification to be able to bring in a foreign worker.

"We have to make sure that the labour market supports having the foreign worker come in and that we're not displacing a Canadian," she said.

"It depends on the job and it depends on the training plan. A lot of them are here to train Canadians into that kind of work."

She said Immigration Canada ultimately has the final say on whether a person comes into Canada or not.

"What we do is provide Immigration with what we call a labour market opinion and that's why the employers apply to us first," she said.

"We do our research to see if the hiring of a foreign worker would displace any Canadians."

Chairman of Sirius Diamonds, Jim Benoliel, said foreign workers come to Sirius because "we're paying them pretty well, in the range of $60,000 plus usually a living allowance."

He said the foreign workers who are brought in are usually trainers since the diamond industry is new to Canada and there are no experienced Canadians to train others.

Aurora College teaches courses in diamond grading but they don't have any cutting and polishing equipment at the college.

As such, there needs to be some on-the-job training.

"It's like any other apprenticeship. It takes people three to five years to learn," said Benoliel.