Editorial: Excellent question indeed!

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Social media is abuzz with video of a recent town hall meeting in Canada, in which a young Antiguan student by the name of Zion Michael, posed a wellcrafted and intelligent question to the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.
Ms. Michael did what politicians could not. She got an answer from Canada on exactly why our visa-free status to that country was revoked and a path to the way forward. It was a case of being at the right place, at the right time and asking the right question. It was, no doubt, a question that PM Trudeau did not expect nor did he particularly want to answer, but he did. Great job Zion! You have done yourself and Antigua and Barbuda proud.
 Let’s revisit that great presentation and question from Zion. “As of June 2017, the government of Canada imposed restrictions regarding immigration policy on the island of Antigua and Barbuda. We now require visas to come to Canada. Many residents blame the Citizenship by Investment Programme; the argument being that it compromises national security and the integrity of our immigration system. My question is: What can be done to repair our relationship and does that mean the termination of the CIP programme,?” she asked.
The reply? After listening intently, Mr. Trudeau said, “Excellent question.” He then went on to address the question and, in doing so, he has provided the most detailed response on the issue that we have seen to date. It is unfortunate that some people are discounting the brain power and poise of young Zion and are seeking to establish a conspiracy that her grandmother set her up with the question. They obviously do not know Zion. They can’t even identify a motive but raise the coincidental nature of who her grandmother is and her political persuasion. So sad that we cannot just give Zion credit for being an intelligent young Antiguan in Canada and asking a question of the PM on an issue of great importance in the two countries’ relationship. Sad!
 That aside, Mr. Trudeau stated that Canada has “a fairly stringent criteria around security, around ensuring that the travellers who come to Canada are who they say they are. And, we have pretty high expectations of countries that do not require visas to come to Canada. And, what we found in Antigua and Barbuda, and other countries, was that there was not the level of stringency and analysis done to satisfy our high standards on immigration and border control.” Fair enough. It certainly was in keeping with what had been stated before.
It is what he said next that was intriguing, and likely only came out in this type of environment, under these public circumstances. He said, “We are happy to work with countries like Antigua to improve – to have them improve – their system so it meets Canada’s high standards, but we will not compromise Canadian’s safety or our border security on the basis of trying to do a favour for another friendly country. We will always ensure that Canadians stay protected, and if countries like Antigua and Barbuda make the significant improvements and changes necessary to their programme, we could then look at lifting the visa requirements.”
At that moment, Zion orchestrated a glimmer of light to peek from behind the opaque curtains, and our Prime Minister quickly seized on the opportunity. To his credit, he did not allow this opportunity to pass while he over-analysed what was said and pondered a response. Near immediately, he dispatched a letter to Mr. Trudeau indicating Antigua and Barbuda’s willingness to engage in the conversations toward improving relations and to take the actions necessary to lift the visa requirements.
 It was shrewd diplomacy to respond as quickly as he did and to make it public so that everyone knows that the ball is in Canada’s court. Where it all goes from here is yet to be seen, but we seem to be in a better place than we were before young Zion asked the brilliant question. If this works out in our favour, and we are eventually able to regain visa-free status to Canada, we believe Zion deserves some type of recognition for getting the ball rolling.
So what say you Canada? Your PM has made an offer to “work with” our country to improve our system “so it meets Canada’s high standards,” and our PM has accepted the offer in the most unrestrictive way that a sovereign nation can. What happens next?
 Please do not let this be another bit of political theatre designed more for the cameras than for the people. We hope that the promise of help will materialise, and we can both achieve improvements that assist us in meeting the mutual goals of security and border protection. Surely, everyone recognizes that working toward mutual goals is a win-win situation, so let’s not waste any more time. Let’s sit down and hash this out and get back to the way things were.

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