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This article was published 10/4/2016 (1700 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Winnipeg man is petitioning the federal government to allow Ukrainian citizens to visit Canada without a visa.

More than 2,100 people have signed the petition started by Nick Krawetz in January, and he says he has support from at least half of Manitoba's 14 MPs. He said given the support Canada has shown to Ukraine and the 2015 Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement, it doesn't make sense for Canada to continue to require Ukrainian citizens to obtain a visa to visit Canada.

"I firmly believe Canada's visa policy to Ukraine is undermining job creation and serving as a barrier to free trade," said Krawetz.

He noted Ukraine lifted visa requirements for Canadians 11 years ago.

His petition specifically calls for Canada to allow Ukrainian nationals to visit for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. However, Krawetz said Canada could follow the European Union in moving to lift visa requirements for Ukrainians who have biometric passports. Those are passports that use smart card technology embedded in a paper passport with biometrical information that can identify the traveller. That can include fingerprints, facial and iris recognition.

Biometric passports are difficult to forge. Ukraine has been issuing such passports since 2015.

Manitoba MP James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake) has sponsored the petition. He said he agrees if Canada believes in free trade with Ukraine, it should also believe in lifting visa requirements so people can more easily travel between the two countries.

Bezan said Ukraine has not been a problem for Canada when it comes to people arriving as a visitor and then attempting to stay permanently, and he doesn't see any reason to continue requiring tourist visas.

The Conservative MP said he intends to push the issue with the government once the petition closes for signatures next month.

If election promises are upheld, Krawetz may find a friendly ear in the government. Although thus far Krawetz has not received a specific response from Immigration Minister John McCallum, or International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, the Liberals told the Ukrainian Canadian Congress last fall it supported the idea.

"Given Canada’s long and special relationship with Ukraine, and recognizing the more than 1.3 million Canadians who trace their roots to the country, a Liberal government will work toward achieving this goal," was the Liberal response to an election survey question about lifting the visa requirement.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca