Speaking exclusively to Moving2Canada at a networking event in Montreal on May 10th, Mr Varadkar admitted that the issue had been “a bugbear” of his for some time. Many countries, including the US, the UK and Australia, already have such agreements in place, but Ireland does not. With an increased number of Irish now living in Canada or hoping to do so in the near future, Mr Varadkar’s department has seen an increased number of letters requesting that the matter be addressed as soon as possible. A series of agreements with provinces would make it easier to obtain a driving license in Canada.
“The difficulty we have is that every province issues its own license, so the rules at the moment mean that we have to have an agreement with every province individually,” he said. “Essentially what we have to work out in each case is that each province’s license is similar to ours in terms of what you have to do before you do your test and the quality of the test is high enough. Really what it boils down is that there’s a lot of administration involved with it, unfortunately. But we’re getting there, province by province.”
As it stands, each province requires Irish drivers to sit a test before obtaining a provincial driving license in Canada, though most allow a grace period of around 60-90 days during which a newcomer may drive on their existing license. The aim of the current negotiations is for immigrants with a full Irish driving license to be able to automatically obtain a Canadian one through the provinces, negating the need to sit another driving test. A lot of progress has been made with the governments of Newfoundland and Ontario, which will be welcome news to the huge number of Irish immigrants living in Canada’s most populated province. Mr Varadkar stated that deals with Quebec and the western provinces were high on his agenda.
While no timeline can be revealed at this stage, the Minister declared that the good relationship that Ireland enjoys with the federal government of Canada will support the process. With Prime Minister Stephen Harper having visited Ireland this summer for the G8 meeting in Co. Fermanagh, it is hoped that work can continue on getting a set of agreements in place.
“We’ll continue to deal with all those bilateral issues between the two countries,” said Mr Varadkar. Speaking to Moving2Canada before the G8 meeting, Mr Varadkar said that it was a good opportunity to put driving licenses on the agenda in Harper’s meeting with the Taoiseach and that hopefully the word will get down to the provinces too.
The Minister was in Canada in his capacity as Minister for Sport as he represents Europe on the World Anti-Doping Agency, which is based in Montreal. He also took the opportunity to do some tourism promotion and to meet with aviation organisations. It was recently announced that Air Canada will soon be offering year-round flights between Toronto and Dublin, adding 22,000 seats per year. The news was roundly welcomed by the business communities in both countries and will also help the tourism sector and Irish immigrants living in Central Canada.
Hugo is an Irish journalist living in Montreal, Quebec, where he merges writing with cursing the everlasting snow of “la belle province” while editing Moving2Canada.com. He first moved to Canada in January, 2011.