Canada Bars Hundreds of Activists From Attending the World Social Forum

For the first World Social Forum in the Northern hemisphere, many activists in the Global South are struggling to participate due to restrictive visa policies.

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Story Transcript

NADIA KANJI: Over the Past 15 years, the World Social Forum’s mission has been to create a meeting space for civil society organizations struggling against neoliberalism to build solidarity, defend democracy, and fight for a more equitable and just world.

SPEAKER: It’s an opportunity to come together and think about the alternatives and how we can go back and take it back to our communities.

KANJI: This year for the first time it’s being held in the global north, Montreal Canada. And participants as well as speakers and organizers are finding it much more difficult to be in attendance.

NICK FILLMORE: Government says the applications weren’t filled out right. The people there say they’re just not getting any cooperation. This comes as a bit of a surprise to the organizers. They have kind of counted on this new elected liberal minded government of Justin Trudeau.

KANJI: Activists from Nigeria, Brazil, Palestine, Haiti, and other areas have had their visa requests rejected. A spokesperson for the World Social Forum shared the hope that other organizers felt when Justin Trudeau was elected Prime Minister last year. He says that a team of volunteers from the WSF had met with Trudeau representatives last year who said they would prioritize visa demands.

SAMUEL RAYMOND: In this moment what we’ve encountering is–was this true? We don’t know. Was the effort made/ Or was it artificial? I don’t think so consider that the majority, well not the majority, but many people that have been denied visas are people that we can consider ‘credible,’ in the sense they are well-known leaders of NGO’s, union movements, and even well-known activists. For example, Aminata Traore who is the former minister of culture in Mali who was refused a visa and who is — and its kind of paradoxical, because in this moment she’s a contender for a new position [Secretary General] at the United Nations – so that’s really interesting. So we’re asking ourselves whether this is an arbitrary choice, I’m asking myself this question.

SPEAKER: But others say limiting the World Social Forum’s reach which invites alternatives and promotes resentence to the establishment, isn’t as overt.

SPEAKER: We’re living in a world where there are systemic oppressions and structural oppressions. So I think that [inaud.] out a visa form, most of the time it must indicate whether you are employed, unemployed, how much money you earn, etc. So I think that if you’re coming from countries in the global south where it’s high unemployment rates, high inequality, it’s more than likely that you won’t be able to come here as a result of not being able to prove that you’re going to go back home. So I’m not saying this was a definite ploy but I think we’re living in a world where there is systemic violence and systemic abuses. And so I think it plays a big part in it.

SPEAKER: At an opening rally Tuesday evening, activists said that the obstacles some of their compatriots’ faced were the result simply of a broken immigration system rather than anything conspiratorial.

SPEAKER: I think it’s both a good thing and a bad thing being done in the global north because [inaud.] in the global south. Because that’s really where the worst impacts of this side of development model is happening. But it’s also good because the crisis is not just in the south. The crisis is also effecting the north, the poor in the north, that’s it no? And I think for us to show solidarity for the 99% in the north that’s also being affected by this crisis, it’s very important for us to come here to show solidarity. But at the same time it’s really a bad experience for us because the north is not the most welcoming. And we’re experiencing that right now with our [prolix] from the Philippines, from Bolivia, from Senegal, from everywhere who are going to need visas to come to Canada. And it doesn’t speak well of your new government.

KANJI: From the Real News Network, Nadia Kanji and Thomas Hedges, Montreal.

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