St. Lucian visitors claiming refugee status in Canada is an issue of serious concern for both the Canadian and St. Lucian governments, says new consul general, Michael Willius.
Nationals from the eastern Caribbean island do not need a visa to travel to Canada as visitors, but the new diplomat is concerned that could change if his country people continue to make false claims to stay in the country.
“These people don’t realize they are hurting the healthy relationship that exists between Canada and St. Lucia and also our country’s image,” said Willius, who took up his new appointment on May 28. “Also, there is no reason for a St. Lucian to be seeking refugee status here because we don’t have a state that oppresses our people. For those wanting to come to Canada for extended periods, there are legitimate ways in which you could go about doing that.”
A University of the West Indies Management Studies graduate, Willius held several strategic posts in the public and private sectors. He was an agricultural economist with the Ministry of Agriculture, trading manager with the Caribbean Agricultural Trading Company, general manager with the St. Lucia Marketing Board, managing director of Packaging Solutions Ltd. and chief executive officer of the St. Lucia Free Zone Management Authority.
This is his first diplomatic posting.
“It’s something new and a fresh challenge,” Willius admitted. “It’s an opportunity to serve my country and I will do that to the best of my ability. The government is currently reviewing its external policies so that it can reposition itself in a constantly changing world environment. That review will be completed shortly and I intend to use it as a compass to see what I can do here to promote trade and foreign investment.”
With the closing of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States High Commission in Ottawa, Willius effectively has jurisdiction for nationals across Canada.
“It’s a big responsibility, but I am hoping that out of the review, the government will find it fitting to provide a greater presence in Canada,” he said.
Willius intends to meet shortly with the leadership of organizations and action groups in the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa and Calgary to share his views and get a sense from them as to what he can do to advance their causes.
“One of the things I would like to do is get St. Lucians in Canada to undertake a project that will financially benefit both them and our country,” said Willius, who owns a business that imports food products from China, Vietnam and Costa Rica. “It has to be something that goes beyond patriotism and it must be a win-win for both sides. I think that’s the only way you can sustain people’s interest and enthusiasm in the long run.”
Prior to coming to Canada, Willius served as president of the Rotary Club of St. Lucia South and the St. Lucia Industrial & Small Business Association, director of the National Development Corporation, the Windward & Leeward Brewery Ltd. and the Free Zone Management Authority and chair of the Southern Tourism Development Corporation.
Willius replaced Stephen Julien who was recalled two months ago.
BY RON FANFAIR