100s of activists denied visas to attend World Social Forum in Montreal, organizers say

Hundreds of activists hoping to attend the World Social Forum in Montreal have been denied visas by Canadian immigration officials, organizers said Friday.

More than 10,000 delegates are expected to attend the event, which bills itself as a progressive alternative to the World Economic Forum held each year in Davos, Switzerland.

With the event less than a week away, and visa concerns mounting, the NDP is demanding Immigration Minister John McCallum hold an emergency meeting with organizers.

“We learned that there are a great number of people who cannot get temporary visas to come to Canada to participate in the World Social Forum,” said the NDP’s immigration critic, Jenny Kwan. “This is extremely troubling.”

Next week’s meeting in Montreal marks the first time the event — which brings together activists and leftist intellectuals from around the world — has been held in a North American city.

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NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan called the visas issues “extremely troubling.” (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Organizers said they issued around 2,000 invitation letters to assist delegates in acquiring Canadian visas. In what they described as a preliminary estimate, they said as many as 70 per cent of these delegates had their applications denied.