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[SANET-MG] Canadian government meddling in an international convention
Thank you for the important effort. I ma enclosing below a press release
from today indicating that the Canadian government continues to block
Dr. Tewolde's participation in an international meeting! I also have
learned that two farmers from India were denied participation in the
One aspect I find most frustrating is the silence of the Canadian news
media on the issue even though they have been repeatedly contacted. Most
of the Canadian media are government propaganda departments,CBC, and the
others are controlled by large corporations. The RCMP (Royal Canadian
Monsanto Police) may have worked their magic. The only avenue open seems
to be to try to interest the international news media in Canadian
meddling with international meetings and functions. sincerely,Joe Cummins
Urgent Protest Needed For Dr. Tewolde
This letter is from Dr. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, who has still
not received a visa from the Canadian Government to enable him to attend
a crucial biosafety meeting in Montreal that will be dealing with the
issues of labelling of genetically modified (GM) products and
liabilities in case of damages. See "Canada denies visa for Africa's
chief biosafety and biodiversity negotiator" http://www.i-
sis.org.uk/CanadaVisa.php Please step up your protests to the Canadian
government, enclosing Dr. Tewolde's letter:
Hon. Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Email: Pettigrew.P@parl.gc.ca Telephone (613) 995-8872 Fax: (613) 995-9926
Hon. Andy Mitchell ,Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food,
Mitchell.A@parl.gc.ca Telephone:(613) 996-3434 Fax: (613) 991-2147
Hon. Stéphane Dion, Minister of the Environment, email@example.com
Telephone: (613) 996-5789 Fax: (613) 996-6562
Hon. Hon. Joseph Volpe, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration,
Volpe.J@parl.gc.ca Telephone: (613) 992-6361 Fax: (613) 992-9791
and copy to: Dr. Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary of the CBD
On 17 May 2005, I informed you by e-mail of my problems with obtaining a
visa to enter Canada for the biosafety negotiations which will take
place in Montreal from 25 May to 3 June 2005. On 20 May 2005 I sent you
an update. I have still not got a visa to Canada. So, I am now giving
you a second update.
Today is 23 May 2005. Inspite of intimations from some quarters that I
will get a Canadian visa, I still do not know when, or if at all, I will
get that elusive visa. I would not be the first one prevented from going
to Montreal on legitimate government duty demanded by international
agreements because Canadian immigration authorities failed to honour
their commitment to facilitate the giving of visas to delegates. My
colleague at the Environmental Protection Authority of Ethiopia, Mr.
Dereje Agonafir, was to participate in the meeting of the Expert Group
on Outcome-oriented Targets for the Programmes of Work on the
Biodiversity of Inland Water Ecosystems and Marine and Coastal
Ecosystems, 25-27 October 2004. He was refused a Canadian visa. I then
wrote a protest letter of the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi. I
know of another Ethiopian refused a visa in 2004. He was to attend a
meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
This means that now I cannot give the Secretariat of the Convention on
Biological Diversity a precise enough travel plan to enable them to
arrange my flight to Montreal, which they kindly do because I am a
delegate from one of the poorest of countries.
The negotiations on liability and redress under the Cartagena Protocol
will start the day after tomorrow, on 25 May 2005. Whatever happens
tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after..., therefore, it now looks
certain that I will have been prevented from joining you in those
negotiations. Of course, I will keep on trying to join you at any time
before and including 3 June 2005.
Now, it seems certain that I have failed in my duty of trying to help
put in place an international liability and redress regime to protect
the interests of the poor of my country, the poor of the world, and the
biodiversity of the biosphere from adventurism in genetic engineering. I
hold the Government of Canada responsible for my forced dereliction of duty.
Given this, I would demand redress from the Government of Canada if I
could. But we, the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity,
have not passed any binding decision that I know of to enable me to do
that. If I am wrong in my understanding, I would appeal to those of you
my friends who read this Second update and who know the law better than
I do to advise me. In the mean time, I will set aside the issue of
liability and redress concerning my forced dereliction of duty and focus
on the future.
Many of you will recall that, in 1998 in Montreal when we were
negotiating the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the delegations of the
industrialized countries refused to even consider liability and redress
in genetic engineering. Those of us from the developing countries had to
refuse to consider any issue other than liability and redress before we
could arrive at a compromise. This compromise was to start negotiating
on an international regime on liability and redress when the Protocol
has come into force (See Article 27 of the Cartagena Protocol on
Biosafety). Now, 7 years later, I have a feeling of déjà vu of a Miami
Group behaviour. Shall we keep being haunted by past scenes of
disharmony instead of looking forward only because our Secretariat is in
Canada? I suggest that you exorcise the unpleasant past by passing a
decision like the following at COP/MOP 2:
A) Any delegate shall be given a visa by the Government of Canada on
demand provided that that demand is conveyed formally from the
delegate's Government which is a Party to the Convention on Biological
Diversity or any protocol emanating from it to the effect that the
delegate will be travelling to Canada for work related to the Convention
on Biological Diversity or to any protocol emanating from it.
B) One refusal or delay by the Government of Canada in issuing a visa
requested as in (a) above that results in any diminition of
participation by the delegate in the planned work shall become
sufficient ground for the closure of the Secretariat of the Convention
on Biological Diversity in Montreal and its transfer to the territory of
another Party. The complete transfer of the Secretariat shall be
effected within 2 years from the date when the impeded work of the
delegate was to have began.
Today is a public holiday in Canada - Queen Victoria's birthday. I
expect that this holiday will delay whatever might have happened with my
request for a Canadian visa. In any case, I join all Canadians in
commemorating this symbolic day. I invite you all my friends from the
rest of the world to join them as well. I will tell you how I will
I will be remembering the genocide that wiped out the Carribs and other
indigenous peoples in the New World; I will be remembering the millions
of my fellow Africans who perished opposing slavery and who suffered as
slaves; I will be remembering the millions of all our ancestors who died
opposing colonialism and those who survived to become disposable objects
on their own lands; I will be remembering our parents who freed us from
colonialism and died in improving our chances of enjoying the dignity
that life deserves. Obviously, I will be remembering the opposite of
what the Canadian public holiday formally commemorates, which I presum
is the greatness of the Victorian era. But I know that many Canadians
will join me in remembering also what I will be remembering.
Globalization has scrambled not only the genome, but also the globe; not
only biology, but also geography. Geography has not yet been scrambled
enough to bring me to Montreal at any time I want, but it is scrambled
enough to make Montreal hear and see Addis Ababa and vice versa. I will
thus be thinking also of the scrambled world; not only of the scrambled
genome. I will be thinking of the thousands who died in Rwanda,
Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the United States. I will be
thinking of the thousands who are dying in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Congo
Democratic Republic and the Sudan. I will also be thinking of the
thousands who died of the tsunami in South-East Asia, South Asia and
Eastern Africa. I will be thinking of the destruction of humans and
other forms of life that could be prevented and that is being promoted.
I will be thinking of the many species that are becoming extinct.
But I am an optimist. The global scrambling is going to be fully
harnessed to save life. It is only the baggage from the Victorian era
that is still causing destruction. However, the scrambling caused by
globalization makes it easy for us to leave this baggage on the wayside
of history. My ancestors who valiantly fought and kept out colonial
Western Europe would, if they could now see, be gratified with the
support that I, their less significant descendant, am getting from all
of you in the world, including from those of you in Western Europe, and
especially from those of you in North America!
For the time being, this is all that I feel that I need to say to you in
way of updating you, my friends. Of course, I am happy that those who
are not my friends are also updated.
Thank you all for your tremendous moral support, my friends. And I
assure you that I will not be demoralized by those who are not my friends.
Your comrade in the search for safety for all life, especially for the
safety of the poor of the Earth,
Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher
John Lozier wrote:
> Mr. Pierre Pettigrew
> In response to the attached press release which reached me just now,
I urge you to take any steps possible to enable Dr. Tewolde to
participate in the meetings scheduled for this week.
> Given the circumstances, this could be a great embarassment to the
Canadian government. Whatever the merits of the biosafety issue, the
inclusion of Tewolde's viewpoint is essential to demonstrate that the
process of discussion is free and open.
> Assuming that you will help to correct this situation, can you
suggest additional actions I could take to the same end.
> Thank you.
> John Lozier
> > ETC Group
> > News Release
> > 18 May 2005
> > www.etcgroup.org <http://www.etcgroup.org>
> > Canada Denies Visa for Africa's Top Biosafety Negotiator
> > Montreal's status as UN's biodiversity headquarters is jeopardized
> > Ottawa - In a breathtaking display of political interference, the
> > Canadian government has blocked entry of Africa's chief negotiator for
> > the Cartagena (biosafety) Protocol, who was scheduled to attend UN
> > meetings beginning next week in Montreal. The Protocol is the United
> > Nations treaty that governs the international movement of genetically
> > modified (GM) organisms.
> > Dr. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, the Ethiopian government's chief
> > scientist and its representative to the Montreal-based UN
> > Biological Diversity (CBD) had his passport returned without the
> > requested Canadian visa yesterday, and without explanation.
> > The renowned scientist submitted his passport to the Canadian embassy
> > on May 5 and had planned to fly to Oslo, Norway for inter-regional
> > negotiations prior to attending the Montreal meetings that begin
> > Wednesday, May 25. Because his passport was returned only May 17, Dr.
> > Tewolde was forced to miss the Oslo meeting.
> > Labeled dangerous?
> > Officials at Foreign Affairs and Citizenship and Immigration have been
> > unable to offer an explanation for rejecting the negotiator's
> > Tewolde has been to Canada often over the past decade,
> > intergovernmental negotiations on biodiversity and biosafety.
> > Rio Earth Summit of 1992, Dr. Tewolde has been one of the most well
> > known leaders among African diplomats addressing environmental issues.
> > However, his positions have not been popular with the Canadian
> > government.
> > During the negotiations on a UN treaty on crop genetic resources
> > adopted in Rome last year, Dr. Tewolde spoke on behalf of all
> > developing countries in demanding the right of farmers to save and
> > exchange seeds and in opposing "life patenting" (intellectual property
> > over biological products and processes). In the negotiations that led
> > up to the Cartagena Protocol, the Ethiopian clashed with his Canadian
> > counterparts, demanding higher standards to prevent GM contamination.
> > At UN meetings in Montreal and around the world, Dr. Tewolde has
> > passionately against Terminator technology (genetically-modified seed
> > rendered sterile at harvest time, forcing farmers to buy new seeds
> > growing season). In February, the Canadian government was prepared to
> > dismantle a de facto moratorium on Terminator at a UN biodiversity
> > meeting in Bangkok. Canada was deeply embarrassed (and highly
> > criticized) when its position became known.
> > The Ethiopian scientist had made it known that he would be coming to
> > Montreal next week to press for the labeling of genetically modified
> > seeds and food products and for companies and governments to accept
> > liability when their seeds lead to GM contamination. Canada has thus
> > far failed to ratify the UN biosafety protocol and is known to be
> > opposed to both compulsory GM labeling and liability.
> > "I had planned to participate in these negotiations and continue with
> > trying to help finalize the unfinished business of protecting
> > biodiversity and human beings," wrote Dr. Tewolde in a letter sent
> > today to colleagues around the world.
> > Montreal's UN future in doubt:
> > In 1995, the Canadian, Québec, and Montreal governments persuaded the
> > United Nations to locate the Secretariat for the UN Convention on
> > Biological Diversity in Montreal. One of the critical
> > hosting a major UN agency is easy access for foreign diplomats to
> > attend intergovernmental discussions.
> > "In barring Dr. Tewolde from participating in the Montreal meetings,
> > Canada is jeopardizing Montreal's future as a United Nations city,"
> > said Eric Darier, a campaigner with Greenpeace in Montreal, "If Ottawa
> > is doing this for its own political purposes, it is making a grave
> > mistake and tarnishing Canada's reputation in the process."
> > "Dr. Tewolde is one of the most respected scientists in his field,"
> > said Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group in Ottawa, "If the
> > Canadian government can't make sure Dr. Tewolde has his visa for the
> > opening of the meetings, Canada does not deserve to host the
> > on Biological Diversity." ETC Group is a Canadian-based international
> > civil society organization with observer status in the United Nations.
> > Mooney talked with Dr. Tewolde by telephone today.
> > Dr. Tewolde himself is concerned that Canada's actions signal a
> > pattern, "Now that I have been prevented from coming to Montreal, who
> > knows which ones of you will be prevented next time?" he wrote.
> > Dr. Tewolde is the recipient of a number of awards and honors for his
> > work in defending biodiversity and the environment. In particular, he
> > received the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the Alternative
> > Nobel Prize).
> > For further information:
> > Eric Darier, Campaigner, Greenpeace, Montreal (514) 933-0021 x 15;
> > mobile (514) 605-6497
> > Pat Mooney, Executive Director, ETC Group (613) 241-2267; mobile (613)
> > 261 0688
> > Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Ban Terminator Campaign, (613) 241 2267
> John Lozier
> West Virginia University Extension Service
> PO Box 6108, Morgantown, WV 26506-6108
> Telephone 304-293-6256
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