Bishop James Cowan of the diocese of British Columbia told his synod at the Mar.6-7 meeting that Conservative Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was “insulting” in the way he refused to allow eleven priests from the Anglican Church of the province of Myanmar to visit last fall when the diocese was celebrating its 150th anniversary.The BC diocese, which encompasses Vancouver and the Gulf Islands, has had a companion diocese link with Anglicans in Myanmar, formerly Burma, that dates back over a decade.
Fifteen members of the Myanmar church were invited to Vancouver Island so that every region of the BC diocese could participate, but only four were granted visas. Bishop Cowan explained that since Canada has neither an embassy nor a consulate in Myanmar, the 15 had to apply for visas at Canada’s Bangkok embassy, where Thai nationals working for Canada rejected 11, suspecting they might appeal for refugee status once in Canada.”They did not meet one Canadian in the interview process, they were rudely treated, and they were denied the presence of an interpreter,” said the bishop. He said all 15 had strong ties to Myanmar and there was no danger any would ask to stay in Canada.”
When Victoria MP Denise Savoie tried to speak on our behalf with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, she was rudely received and patronized by him. His correspondence with her is insulting to all concerned,” Bishop Cowan told synod.In an interview, the bishop said he had seen the letter to the MP, but did not have a copy of it, and because it was not directed to him would not disclose its contents. Neither would Savoie’s office disclose its wording. A New Democratic Party press release last fall accused the Immigration Minister of being “unwilling to take the word of Canadian church officials about a group of priests with unbreakable ties to their home parishes.”
Bishop Cowan said that despite the difficulties, the companion link with the Myanmar diocese continues, and a group of young people from the diocese hope to visit Myanmar next fall.
– Neale Adams is the former editor of Topic, the newspaper for the diocese of New Westminster.