Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, was urged by the Québec Solidaire party against the recent events of visitor visa rejections by the Canadian government as Canada prepares to host the World Social Forum in the coming week. The forum is set to be held at Montreal on Tuesday and is expected to host close to 10,000 delegates from across the world. What is surprising, though, is that close to 200 participating visitors to Canada have been denied their visas. The party has also requested the Immigration and Foreign Ministers, John McCallum and Stéphane Dion respectively, to remove some of the blacklisted participants at the event and approve the rejected applications.
The World Social Forum, a six-day event, hosts intellectuals, political dignitaries, and activists from all over the world, and is, for the first time, being hosted by the Canadian city of Montreal. Speaking about the rejections, a party spokesperson Andréas Fontecilla of Québec Solidaire stated that six out of the 200 people who have been denied visitor visas to Canada are Parliamentarians who have been voted in through a democratic election and belong to five different countries. Fontecilla further added to his statement that none of these Parliamentarians posed any danger or repercussions to Canada.
In an open letter to John McCallum, Fontecilla asserted that denying entry of foreign dignitaries beyond Canadian borders is in direct contradiction to Canada’s open policy for parliamentarians across the world. Fontecilla also added in his statement that he hoped that the Canadian government would reconsider its decision to reject the visitor visas; he brought out the government’s inadequacy to understand the reasons that justify the participation of these international dignitaries and the nature of the forum.
The World Social Forum was first inaugurated at Porto Alegre in Brazil. Consisting of multiple sessions of workshops, lectures and conferences, the forum serves as a platform of convergence for various change agents across the world to have a non-partisan dialogue and discuss projects, initiatives and needs to thrust forward a movement for change at the global level. According to the organization’s website, the tone of dialogues and lectures will be based on progressive themes like xenophobia, environmental preservation, international solidarity, migration and refugee crises, worldwide culture for demilitarization and peace, and expression of artistic thoughts.
Despite its reputation, the event announcement attracted the ire of many social groups who felt that the forum was a platform for many conspiracy theorists to blame the West for the 9/11 terror attacks. Rabbi Reuben Poupko, (Co-chair of Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs at Quebec) representative of the Jewish community in Canada, has publicly criticized the government for including several controversial delegates to represent the event. In his open letter to the Montreal Gazette, Poupko stated that the delegates who attend the event for a genuine cause are welcome to attend the event but they should stand up against those delegates who would utilize this event as a platform to discriminate, divide and dilute the genuine aspirations of the attendees to envision a better world.
In an announcement, organizers for the World Social Forum tweeted its decision to cancel some of the scheduled events which do not adhere to the forum’s rules as several groups opposed panels that sparked fear mongering or anti-Israel sentiments. Media officers for the Forum were not reachable for a comment on the questionable sessions and the government’s decision to reassess visa applications for rejected delegates as for the forum’s Montreal inauguration is set for next week.
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