From Gandhi to Globalization - Part 2

by - Saturday, December 05, 2009

Our latest video podcast just went up.

Part 2 -Presentation, Question & Answer
Ashoke Chatterjee

In part two, Ashoke Chatterjee presents the remainder of his lecture and answers questions from the audience. Part one contained the visiuals and the first part of Mr. Chatterjee's presentation. Part two is audio only. Mr. Chatterjee presented his lecture via satallite from Ahmedabad, India, after he was denied a visa to visit Canada.

From the presentation: "Human life is ultimately nourished and sustained by consumption. Abundance of consumption is no crime, it has in fact been the life blood of much human advance. The real issue is not consumption itself, but its patterns and effects. Consumption patterns today must be changed to advance human development tomorrow. Human development paradigms must aim at enlarging and improving consumer choices, but in ways that promote human life."

The visa denial is still making news. On December 4, 2009, the Vancouver edition of the Globe and Mail (pg A17) ran an opinion piece by Rick Salutin on the conservative government. The story, which claims the conservative government has "a meanness problem" makes specific mention of Ashoke Chatterjees visa denial. Follow the link for the full text of the piece. Rick Salutin Globe and Mail.

For more information on the visa denial as well as the full text of Charllotte Kwon's introduction please see the Maiwa Blog post The Real Barriers to Trade.

When the visa was first denied Maiwa made several attempts to contact the Canadian High Commission. We have not heard a response yet. Here is our formal letter of protest to Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. Comments are welcome.

[The signed original of this letter is also sent on our letterhead via Canada Post]

The Honourable Jason Kenney
Minister of Citizenship,
Immigration and Multiculturalism.

We note from the press releases issued by your office that the government and your office in particular is enthusiastic to encourage trade with India. We are greatly encouraged by this and wish to commend your office for its leadership in this regard.

We have been actively involved in trading with India for over twenty years. We deal with craftspeople and artisans from Kerala to Uttaranchal and from Bengal to Gujarat. India’s craft sector is the second largest employer in the country, second only to agriculture. In terms of a Canadian presence working with Indian artisans, it would be difficult to find an organization that has the scope and depth of presence that Maiwa does.

To give you some background information. Our company, Maiwa, in addition to it’s trade relationship, actively pursues education and promotion of India’s cultures, handcrafts and exceptional artisans. Maiwa mounted an exhibition of Embroidery from India’s Kutch Desert at the Vancouver Museum. The exhibit was held over, broke attendance records, and subsequently travelled internationally. We have produced four feature length documentaries on crafts, all of which feature Indian artisans prominently. Our textile symposium, which runs every second year, is the most comprehensive event of its kind in the world, drawing presenters and participants from Europe, Africa, Asia, as well as North and South America. Maiwa’s reputation in India is considerable. We are known for our commitment, knowledge sharing and ethical practices.

It is this reputation, which permitted us to ask Indian dignitary Ashoke Chatterjee to be a presenter at the 2009 Maiwa Textile Symposium. It was a proud moment for Maiwa, Vancouver, and Canada when he agreed.

It was, however, with considerable embarrassment and disbelief, that we learned that Mr. Chatterjee’s application for a visa to visit Canada had been rejected. Mr. Chatterjee was good enough to provide us with a copy of the rejection and we were appalled. A check mark was made in the box beside the statement:

“I am not satisfied that you have a legitimate business purpose in Canada, and therefore I do not consider you to be a genuine temporary resident who would leave Canada.” (Application U091000177)

We must protest in the strongest possible terms to you, Minister, to your office, and to the corresponding departments managing visa applications in India.

We understand the need to secure the nations borders and the need to maintain control over visa applications. However, the decision is absurd in light of the reputation of Maiwa Handprints Ltd., the Maiwa Textile Symposium and Mr. Chatterjee himself. There exists a very large binder with information substantiating the erroneous nature of the rejection. All criteria stipulated as necessary for a visa application were met. Yet the application was denied. The decision final and not open to appeal.

The rejection has caused considerable financial hardship, yet well above any concerns for our expense is the irreparable harm that has been done to our reputation and trade relations. And we would emphasize, the reputation and trade relations of Canadians. It takes years of groundwork to establish goodwill and corporate equity among our trading partners in India. Canadians are now seen to have offered a thoughtless rejection to an individual whom they (quite rightly) hold in high regard for his tireless work in the craft sector and for his long list of achievements in humanitarian areas.

Mr. Chatterjee’s development experience includes consultancies and training conducted on behalf of the National Institute of Design, National Drinking Water Mission (Govt. of India), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (Govt. of India, New Delhi), Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (Geneva), National AIDS Control Organization (Govt. of India, New Delhi), UNICEF (India and New York), UNFPA (New Delhi), World Conservation Union (IUCN, Geneva), National Conservation Strategy of Pakistan (Islamabad), World Bank (New Delhi), Ford Foundation (New Delhi), Gujarat AIDS Prevention & Control Unit (GAP, Ahmedabad), Centre for Environment Education (Ahmedabad), Department of Health (Government of Gujarat), and on behalf of several NGOs working on health and environmental issues.

We can only assume that this visa rejection was a deeply unfortunate error. In this light we ask your office to make a concerted effort to facilitate the removal of the denial from Mr. Chatterjee’s passport. We also ask that steps be taken to introduce greater access to the visa application process. The unfortunate international consequences of this situation (for Maiwa, Mr. Chatterjee, and our international reputation) could have been avoided if there were a means to contact a visa application officer.

We look forward to a reply from your office.

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