Disturbing Precedent in Canada-Venezuela Relations

Canada Puts a Muzzle on Academic Freedom
Dear Friends,

This message was sent to each of the following in response to the Canadian government's refusal to issue visas to academics from Venezuela to a student sponsored conference at Glendon Campus, York University, Toronto.

To Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism
To Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Trade, Cannon.L@parl.gc.ca
To Paul Dewer, NDP foreign affairs critic, Dewar.P@parl.gc.ca
To Bob Rae, Liberal foreign affairs critic, Rae.B@parl.gc.ca

Dear Sir:
On February 28, an academic symposium on Venezuela at York University in Toronto was disrupted by the refusal of the Canadian government to issue visas to two invited speakers from Venezuela.

Our organization, the Venezuela We Are With You Coalition, has worked for four years to organize educational activity about developments in Venezuela. We are not aware of any other case where the federal government has barred Venezuelans making brief visits to this country for educational speaking engagements. We are informed that Layo Gascuez and Eduardo Rothe, both prominent figures in Venezuelan public life, made appropriate application to the Canadian embassy in Caracas for visas in order to speak at Venezuela: From Boli­var to Chavez, an academic symposium held at Glendon College of York University. Further information on the symposium is available at http://www.venezuelasymposium.org/

According to Ekaterina Malyuzhinets, one of the event's organizers, the speakers were denied visas for inexcusable reasons. The embassy demanded non-required paperwork and asked inappropriate questions,she said.

A diplomatic representative at the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Canada told me that Gasquez and Rothe presented a document from the Venezuelan ministry asking that a visa be issued, but this was disregarded.I was told that the objections to issuing the visa were raised by Canadian immigration authorities. Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade was apparently asked to assist in resolving the problems, but declined to do so.

This is an alarming precedent. It casts a shadow over our ability to invite speakers from Venezuela in the future. We ask that you review this case and assure us that there will be no repetition of such exclusion.

John Riddell
for the Venezuela We Are With You Coalition

No comments: