Diplomatic strike threatens International Children's Games
Delay in visa processing could keep athletes from attending games in Windsor, Ont.
Job action by federal civil servants might prevent hundreds of kids from around the world from participating in the International Children's Games in Windsor, Ont., next month.
The job action by Canada's foreign service officers is causing a slowdown in visa applications. Some Canadian foreign service workers at 15 embassies expanded their job action earlier this week.
The games are to begin Aug. 14 and project coordinator Walt Metulynsky is worried teams and athletes from foreign countries might not be allowed into the country.
"We have a number of cities from several countries that have had delays in their granting of visas. As a result, they're getting quite nervous, as are we, that it may affect their travel plans," Metulynsky said.
More than 1,000 athletes are to descend on Windsor. However, as many as 14 teams from as many as six countries are affected.
Delegations from seven cities in Mexico, two in Russia and more from China and India have been affected by the job action.
Metulynsky said if teams don't show, it affects the level of competition, attendance and scheduling of the games.
"We are very concerned," Metulynsky said.
He said no sports are in danger of being cancelled all together.
Metulynsky says there's still a chance the visa situation could be resolved in time for the games.
"We've been following up throughout the process ... right up until a week ago, making sure [athletes] applied for their visas," Metulynsky said. "We've been after these delegations for a long time to get those things in on time."
Some teams were slow to apply because teams and delegations weren't selected earlier.
"The applications are just piling up," said Tim Edwards, head of the the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers.
The number of visas issued from offices in major centres abroad dropped 60 to 65 per cent in June, he said, and overall, the issuance rate is down 25 per cent.
On July 3, the backlog was growing five per cent per week, and in the bigger centres, it was 10 to 20 per cent per week, said Edwards. At more than half of the 51 foreign visa application centres, the processing times are exceeding the immigration department's 14-day target.
"These are things beyond our control," Metulynsky said. "We're hoping the visas are granted and they will be here for the games on time."
The union says the service withdrawals are a direct result of the government's refusal to engage meaningfully with its employees and to put a fair offer on the table.
The union is advocating for "equal pay for equal work," asking for salary increases to keep foreign service officers on par with other public servants who do comparable work.
But Treasury Board, the department responsible for contract negotiations, says the government has put forward a fair offer, one that is "fair to employees and fair for taxpayers," according to a spokesman for Treasury Board President Tony Clement.
With Files From Meagan Fitzpatrick