ANKARA, TURKEY--(Marketwire - Jan. 14, 2013) - Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney has completed a productive visit to India, part of a three-country trip that also includes Sri Lanka and Turkey. Minister Kenney's six-day visit to India saw him travel through five of the country's regions.
"This official visit to India was a great opportunity to promote Canada internationally," Minister Kenney stated. "Our two Commonwealth democracies share a deep and growing bond as many Indians come to visit friends and relatives or study in Canada, while others come to Canada to start new lives, through our new fast and flexible immigration programs."
Minister Kenney first traveled to Cochin, Kerala, to attend the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBDs), a large gathering of India's overseas diaspora at which he spoke on Canada's model of pluralism, and the success of the more than one million Canadians of Indian origin. He was joined by Member of Parliament Joe Daniel and Senator Asha Seth.
During his time in Cochin, Minister Kenney met with Shri Vayalar Ravi, India's Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, who he encouraged to move forward with legislation to regulate the conduct of immigration agents and recruiters to better protect from exploitation Indians seeking to visit or immigrate to Canada.
He also met with External Affairs Minister Shri Salman Khurshid and Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur, to discuss matters of mutual interest as Canada and India continue to strengthen human and commercial ties. He spoke with Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy about the contribution of Canada's growing Malayali community, and commercial opportunities between Canada and the state. Minister Kenney also met with His Eminence George Cardinal Alencherry, together with some 40 Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church on historic Mount St. Thomas to discuss the state of minority communities in India's diverse society.
Minister Kenney then became the first Canadian Minister ever to make an official visit to the State of Goa, when he met with Chief Minister Shri Manohar Parrikar regarding the success of Canada's large Goan community, and commercial opportunities such as Canadian energy exports. He also met with Archbishop Most Rev. Filipe Neri Ferrão, Archbishop of Goa and Daman.
The Minister continued on to Delhi, where he met with Indian Home Affairs Minister Shri Sushil Kumar Sambhajirao to discuss joint efforts to combat immigration fraud. He also met with leading Indian business and political leaders at a reception to discuss growing opportunities for bilateral trade and investment.
Minister Kenney met with officials at Canada's High Commission in New Delhi, Citizenship and Immigration Canada's (CIC) largest overseas office, to review operations and thank staff for processing record numbers of visas for Indian nationals visiting Canada.
While in New Delhi, the Minister presented flowers at the historic Shri Lakshmi Narayan Temple in memory of Jyoti Singh Pandey, the victim of a recent brutal gang rape.
Minister Kenney then traveled to Amritsar, Punjab, where he announced that in 2012, CIC's Chandigarh office issued a record number of Temporary Resident Visas to Punjabi visitors to Canada in 2012, 17,608, nearly three times the number issued in 2005. This is thanks in part to greater cooperation with Punjab State officials in combating illicit activities by unethical immigration agents. He also met with Punjab State Minister Bikram Majithia to discuss efforts to combat immigration fraud, and implementation of Punjab's new Anti-Human Smuggling Act.
While in Amritsar, Minister Kenney visited the Harmandir Sahib, Sikhism's Golden Temple, where he was accompanied by Minister of State Tim Uppal and Member of Parliament Parm Gill. "I was deeply honoured to visit the Golden Temple for a second time, and to witness the quiet beauty of this place of prayer and devotion that is the spiritual home of hundreds of thousands of Canadian Sikhs," Minister Kenney said.
Other holy sites the Minister visited while in India included the Paradesi Synagogue in Cochin, the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth; the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, which holds the relics of St. Francis Xavier; and the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham Mahdhir Temple in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. "All of these sacred places reminded me of the stunning diversity of India, and that it is a land of great faith."
The Minister completed his visit in Gandhinagar, Gujarat to attend the Vibrant Gujarat 2013 Summit, where he was joined by Members of Parliament Patrick Brown and Devinder Shory. Minister Kenney gave the keynote address at the inaugural Canada-Gujarat Business and Trade Opportunities seminar, promoting investment in Canada, and spoke at the closing plenary of the conference attended by more than 50,000 delegates from 120 countries saying that "just as Gujarat has the strongest economy in India, Canada has the strongest economy in the G-7. Working together, the potential to support each other's prosperity is boundless."
Minister Kenney met with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who expressed appreciation for Canada having the largest overseas delegation at Vibrant Gujarat, and expressed keen interest in the prospect of importing Canadian energy products and other commodities.
"Prime Minister Harper's historic six-day visit to India last November underscored the enormous progress that we have made in Canada-India relations. The finalization of the Canada-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement and Social Security Agreement, the progress being made on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement, Canada's expanded diplomatic and trade promotion presence all help to explain 23% growth in bilateral trade in just one year," said Minister Kenney. "I was pleased to contribute to this momentum, particularly through the human and cultural bridge between Canada and India made possible through CIC's visitor and immigration programs."
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Photos of Minister Kenney available at: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/photos/index.asp.
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