No Place for Poor Indian Activists at the UN Meet in Canada

Lets register protest- Canada or any other govt should not repeat this. See the newsreport below.
From Rasheed


Monday, 07 October 2013 | Moushumi Basu | New Delhi
It was a moment of rare honour for Sabitri Patra and Gopal Chandra Mandal — two conservationists from remote villages near Niyamgiri hills and Sunderbans in Odisha and West Bengal respectively. They were invited by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and officially registered by its Secretariat to participate in its meetings in Montreal from October 7 to October 18.

As per the agreement between the CBD Secretariat and the Canadian Government, the visa of the participants is to be promptly processed free of cost. To their surprise, the duo had to pay for their visa applications, which were rejected on grounds that they possessed insufficient funds in their personal account.

While Gopal is actively involved in restoration of mangrove ecology and developing community-owned mangrove forests in the vicinity of local villages, Sabitri had been working with the Kutia Kondh communities (particularly vulnerable tribal Group) near Niyamgiri hills. She had even participated in the 2012 CBD summit in Hyderabad.

“I was all set to board my flight on Thursday, but just a day before I got a letter from Canada Citizenship and Immigration office saying my application had been rejected,” Gopal said. “I was told I did not have sufficient funds, income or assets… to maintain myself in Canada,” he added.

While the visa officer also considered that the application had not clarified the “Purpose of Visit,” Gopal had a registration letter signed by the Executive Secretary of the CBD confirming that he “has been officially nominated to attend” the concerned CBD meetings.

He also had another letter from a sponsor confirming to cover all his expenses during his stay in Canada. Further, even the return air ticket was furnished along with the application. However, in spite of all these documents, they rejected the visa.

For her part, Sabitri also faced a similar plight. “Poor persons like us cannot hope to go to Canada,” an upset Sabitri said.S Faizi, ecologist, chairing the Board of CBD Alliance and specialising in International Environmental Policy, said, “Canada has breached the headquarters’ Agreement it has signed at the highest level with the United Nations Environment Programme for hosting the CBD Secretariat.”

Article 8.2 of the Agreement clearly points out, “Visas, where requested for persons shall be issued by the Government free of charge and as promptly as possible.”

Similarly, Article 8.1 of the Agreement says that Canadian authorities “shall not” impose any impediments to transit to and from the premises of the Secretariat of representatives of parties, observers….invited by the Secretariat…”

These are unconditional commitments on the part of the host country, as required by the UN system, in order to host universal UN events, Faizi said, adding its breach calls for remedial action by the statutory bodies of CBD.

However, responding to the charges over e-mail, Sonia Lesage, Media Relations Advisor/Spokesperson Western Region – Communications, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said though they cannot comment on the specifics of these cases due to Privacy Act, visa applications are considered on a case-by-case basis on the specific facts presented by the applicant in each case. Decisions are made by highly-trained visa officers in accordance with Canadian immigration law.

“It is important to note that the onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that they meet the requirements for a temporary resident visa. Applications should be clear and complete and include all relevant supporting documents, such as an official invitation to attend a special event being held in Canada,” she added.

Kiran Shaheen


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