Last Updated on September 13, 2011 by Steven Meurrens

From the Big Picture

The Afghan Interpreter Debacle is a strong example of why it is important to be skeptical of government promises.

In September, 2009, the Government of Canada announced with great fanfare that it would be introducing special measures to facilitate immigration to Canada of certain local translators in Afghanistan who faced exceptional risk or who have suffered serious injury as a result of their work for the Canadian government.

In a Citizenship and Immigration Canada press release at the time, Jason Kenney announced:

There are Afghans who face extraordinary personal risk as a result of their work in support of Canada’s mission in Kandahar.

We commend their bravery to help build a better Afghanistan while recognizing the price that they have paid. Their lives and those of their families may be threatened by insurgents, and some have suffered serious injury and can no longer work. To recognize their contribution, we will offer them special consideration if they wish to relocate to Canada.

Flash forward to today.  On Sunday, the Globe and Mail published a story titled “Program to bring Afghan interpreters to Canada ends with most turned away.”  Most applicants appear to have been turned away because they cannot meet the requirement of having worked 12 consecutive months from 2007 – 2011.  Furthermore, while many Afghans worked more than 12 consecutive months for the Canadians, it was not the right 12 months.  Accordingly, according to Yahoo News, while the Government of Canada originally announced that it would welcome 450 interpreters while estimating that applicants would only have to wait an average of six months to a year to obtain a visa, only 60 interpreters have been accepted, and average application processing times have been well north of two years.

So what does Jason Kenney have to about the implementation of the program?  According to the Globe and Mail:

The minister declined an interview request.

In case you thought that this issue was limited to Canada, the Globe and Mail also reports in the same article that:

The Associated Press recently reported that 2,300 Afghans applied for a similar program run by the U.S. government. The U.S. Afghan Allies program is supposed to award up to 1,500 visas each year through 2013. Not a single visa has been handed out.

Ugh.  As a commentator on Yahoo said:

The Pro-Taliban groups are loving this. It just sways more supporters and reinforces the old aged notion that the “white man” is a lying dog and can’t be trusted.


As the CBC reports, when all was said and done, around 800 Afghans wound up coming to Canada through the program.  This was almost double the original planned 450.