Visa Rejection: Questions to the Canadian Government
By Jose Mario De Vega
I am writing with regard to the exchange of messages between Faizi and Nele concerning the fact that our Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Alliance “has taken knowledge of at least two visa rejections by Canadian embassies”. This is a serious matter that demands our attention.
Worst, the people whole visa were rejected are confirmed delegates that are accredited to the CBD meetings.
Indeed, “this is not only unfair for the persons involved, this is also against the principles of the Convention, as the participation of indigenous peoples, local communities and civil society in general is crucial to CBD decision making.”
Said Convention is an “Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity Concerning the Headquarters of the Convention Secretariat (E101442 – CTS 1996 No. 28)”.
The agreement was signed by Robert Fowles for the Government of Canada and Elizabeth Dowdesswell for the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity on October 25, 1996.
I would like to add and deeply stress that, the act of Canada in rejecting the visa application of this people is not only unjust, but undeniably absurd and utterly preposterous!
The Canadian government specifically violated Article 8 (1) and (2) which specifically and expressly provided that:
Access to the Premises of the Secretariat
The competent Canadian authorities shall not impose any impediments to transit to or from the Premises of the Secretariat of representatives of Parties to the Convention, observers, experts on missions, or other persons invited by the Secretariat thereto on official business.
Visas, where required, for persons referred to in paragraph 1, shall be issued by the Government free of charge and as promptly as possible.
I am wondering what is the ground or the reason behind the rejection of the visa application! It is clear that those delegates were confirmed and checked by CBD, hence what more evidence does the Canadian government need?
The status and background of those individuals are beyond dispute and their business in Canada is clearly spelt out, hence again what are the reasons or the ground relied upon by the authorities in deciding for their visa rejection?
Indeed, CBD state parties are “committed under the CBD to promote the participation of indigenous and local communities, who live as directly dependent on customary use of biodiversity and its regeneration, not having much private monetary resources.”
I share Ville-Veikko’s view that:
“When indigenous representatives would participate to contribute to wider application of their knowledge, innovations and practices of their customary sustainable use of biodiversity, they are required first to prove such private monetary income or property, which fulfills the standards of modern over-consuming life – even if their participation would have been covered by supporting organisations and recommended by the CBD.
“As the participation of indigenous and local communities is crucial for the CBD process, commitments or meetings like WG8J, it is necessary that the costs of their participation can be covered by other facilitating instances or organisations – including CBD Alliance.
“If this is not respected, then:
“How would international community promote wider application of the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous communities’ sustainable life if it controls such communities’ international access and sharing by such procedures, standards, requirements or privileges of the mainstream, which remain alien to indigenous cultures and discriminate against their less over-consuming sustainable life?”
Our CBD coordinator, Ms. Nele Marien is totally in point when she pointed out that:
“Excluding certain groups from assisting to the meetings, especially those directly involved, would render the CBD less democratic.
“Therefore, the CBD Alliance wishes to formally raise this issue.”
As the CBD Chairperson Faizi said:
“This is indeed a serious issue and a glaring violation of the host country agreement to provide access (i.e. visa) to all bona fide participants. This issue was also raised in the final INC CBD meeting where Kenya, Spain and Canada were competing for the CBD Headquarter, when many of us argued in favour of Kenya for easy access (visa) and low expense, but Canada had its way…argued that visas would be unfaling in coming for bona fide participants.”
Undeniably, Canada has violated the said agreement which has been agreed upon by all relevant parties in good faith.
Second, they also breached the promise that they made: visa would be given to those who are bona fide participants.
Faizi continued that said convention was “legally agreed in the host country agreement (between the government of Canada and the United Nations). I had sent a copy of the agreement to this list some 4-5 years ago when such an issue cropped up”.
I overwhelmingly concur with the Chairperson that:
1. We should take this crucial and important issue with the President of CBD Bureau, ES, and the Canadian CBD focal point and the Canadian foreign ministry.
2. We must also register a firm protestation and strong complaint to the credentials committee of the SBSTTA, 8j meetings.
3. Needless to state, we must promptly issue a public statement to denounce this unjust and unfair act of the Canadian government.
4. Besides all of these actions, we can also bring a civil suit to the local court to demand for justice and/or apology.
Indeed, visa rejection in violation of the host country agreement is a global public issue therefore we all must strongly and firmly condemn this as one, because an unjust act committed to one of our delegate is the same as an unjust act committed to all of us!
We must all act on this in order for this kind of horrible event not to happen again in the future!
Lastly, I agreed with the sharp observation of the Chairperson that:
“This once again reinforces the argument that multilateral events should not be held in countries that a) ask bona fide delegates to prove that they will not stay in that country as illegal emigrant, b) face high security threat so that every visa applicant has to prove that h/she is not a terrorist…
“Indeed there are plenty of countries in the world that are delegate friendly, low cost and having good infrastructure.”
This is a shame to Canada and they have to do the right thing. They have to acknowledge their mistake, apologize to CBD and approve without question those visas that they unjustly and discriminately rejected!
Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
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