The World Parliamentary Forum opened on Wednesday in Montreal with very notable absentees. Ottawa denied visas to six of the invited foreign parliamentarians. Organizers and participants suspect that this attitude is linked to the leftist orientation of the event.
The World Parliamentary Forum (WPF) is the closest thing to a world convention of left-oriented politics. It is organized in context of the World Social Forum (WSF), an international event where politicians, militants and other actors meet to discuss and advance global alternatives to capitalism. Montreal is hosting the event from August 9th to August 14th. It is the 12th edition of the WSF and the first taking place in the Northern Hemisphere.
However, the chosen location is proving inaccessible to an unexpected number of people. Canada denied visas to more than 200 people who wanted to attend the WSF.
On Wednesday, politicians from here and abroad, along with some civil groups, are meeting in UQUAM to discuss the issues and the future of left-wing politics for the WPF. But six representatives from Palestine, Columbia, Malaysia, Mali and Nepal won’t be able to take part. One co-organizer of the event and one ex-presidential-candidate of Mali were refused, among others.
Apparently, immigration authorities were not convinced that their stay was intended to be temporary. A strange concern, considering that the people in question are all elected members in their home countries’ parliaments.
Alexandre Boulerice, a NDP MP, called the decision “indecent and shameful” in a statement to Le Devoir. “It’s completely silly,” he said, “those people regularly attend international forums.”
André Fontecilla, from Québec Solidaire, believes that Ottawa’s decision deliberately targets elected members of the political left. He affirmed to Le Devoir that “it is certain that if this was a forum promoting free-trade, the response would have been completely different. Those people could have entered the country without problems”.
The ministry of immigration maintains that the decision has nothing to do with politics. Visa demands are being treated on case-by-case basis. Decisions are not taken by politicians but by simple civil servants.
“Parliamentary or not, if they don’t fit the criteria, they cannot come,” said Félix Corriveau, spokesperson for the Immigration Minister John McCallum. “We simply can’t know who those people are.”
* Featured image from the @FSM2016QuebecWSF Facebook page