Determining the number of passports the previous Grenada New National Party (NNP) government sold to anyone who could afford to buy the travel document has been a slow process, Labour, Social Security & Ecclesiastical Affairs Minister Karl Hood told Share while in Toronto last week for the annual Grenada Association of Toronto’s (GAT) independence celebration.
The former NNP government, led by then Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, is said to have sold nearly 850 passports from 1997 when the program was introduced until Mitchell suspended it shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Citing criminality, security and border integrity concerns posed by the controversial economic citizenship program, the Canadian government imposed visa restrictions on Grenada and Dominica nine years ago for selling the passports.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) party, that replaced the NNP two years ago, believes the restrictions were imposed because the NNP sold travel documents to individuals with questionable backgrounds.
“We are in the process of trying to find out who hold these passports,” said Hood who is an optician and minister of religion. “Our government wants to clean that up before we can approach the Canadian government with all of the necessary information and show them we have done our part. As you may appreciate, it’s not an easy process and that’s why it has been moving along slowly. We want to have a clean record before we present our case to the Canadian government to get them to consider lifting the visa requirement.”
The theme of this year’s 36th independence celebration was “Celebrating Our Nation’s Birth With Love and Togetherness.”
The GAT, which was established 43 years ago by a group that included former federal minister Jean Augustine and former Federal Court of Canada Chief Justice Dr. Julius Isaac, recognized five students who were presented with scholarships late last year. The recipients are Karl Alexander, Dominique Bennett, Renette Nkombe, Kizzy Pysadee and Shanice Yarde who was unable to attend the event.
A graduate of T.A. Marryshow Community College, Alexander is pursuing a Computer Systems Technology advanced diploma at Durham College while Bennett, 18, is a radio and TV arts student at Ryerson Polytechnic University.
Nkombe is an aspiring lawyer attending York University, Pysadee is enrolled in Centennial College’s Nursing program and Yarde attends Concordia University in Montreal.
Grenadians in the Greater Toronto Area were also honoured for distinguished community and professional service.
Dr. Robert Ogilvie, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Humber River Regional Hospital, was honoured for Professional Excellence and Renwick Herry, a leading exponent of Grenadian culture and the director of Drum Theatre Togetherness was recognized for his significant contribution to the arts and culture.
Community awards were presented to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre nurse Theresa Moore-Vincent and Spice Island Association and Grenada Day Cultural Association president Marvis Meyers.