Travel visas for at least 170 people hoping to travel to Montreal for the World Social Forum next week have been refused, according to Metro News, and the total number of visas refused or blocked is over 200, according to the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN).
These are people from all over the world, including Mali, Brazil, Palestine, Iran, Congo, Nigeria, Morocco, Haiti, Nepal and more.
This is the first time a World Social Forum, a highly international event founded in 2001, has been held in a country in the global north.
A text was posted earlier this week, on August 3rd, by the Montreal Indymedia Convergence Organizing Team decrying the visa refusals known at that time, which were not known to be at the 200+ level.
The text from August 3rd included testimony from a number of people around the world having visa troubles, like this:
“SaharaReporters issued all the necessary documentation for our delegates from Nigeria,” said Omoyele Sowore, founder and publisher of the edgy media outlet that has been called the WikiLeaks of Africa. “We expected that if the Canadian consulate was in doubt of our capability to support our delegates, that they would ask us for further documentation. This was not done; all delegates sponsored by us had their visa applications denied. The Canadian government ought to know that in accepting the WSF to be hosted on Canadian soil, it had agreed to accept all persons regardless of race, class or social geography.”
The August 3rd text also critiqued the decision to hold the World Social Forum in a global north country, noting long-standing concerns around freedom of mobility to a such locations:
Given this well-known power imbalance in the globalised world, the decision to hold the World Social Forum in Canada, a notoriously difficult country to gain entry, should have been coupled with a proactive commitment on the part of the International Council and the local organizing committee of the WSF to follow through with and facilitate the approval of visas requested by WSF registrants. Participation of the global south in the WSF is fundamental if we are to keep the WSF tradition authentically rooted in the experienced needs of the majority of our planet’s population. It is unacceptable that a WSF be organised without explicit support of activists from the global south.
The organizers of the World Social Forum have sent Canadian government officials a letter asking that visas be granted to World Social Forum participants without delay.
The World Social Forum begins on August 9th and runs until August 14. Well over 10 000 people are expected to attend.