Ottawa fast-tracking travel visas for AIDS conference amid sharp criticism

The federal government has said it is now prioritizing temporary travel visas for people seeking to attend the International AIDS Conference in Montreal at the end of July.

The move comes as the head of the African Alliance health rights organization lashed out at Canada for bidding to host the conference and spending millions of dollars on it without ensuring all attendees would be issued visas. to attend.

Founder Tian Johnson said it was “truly disgusting” that thousands of people from the Global South were still waiting to find out if they could get a visa, leaving the conference “white, privileged and academic. “

The African Alliance is one of 250 Canadian and international humanitarian groups that signed a letter to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser in June asking him to intervene.

The letter warns that there is a real danger that the voices of people living in the countries most affected by AIDS will be lost in the conversation.

A spokesman for Fraser said visa offices have now been sent lists of conference invitations and told to prioritize their temporary travel visa applications.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is working closely with conference organizers to ensure immigration and entry requirements are understood so that processing and entry is smooth for participants, IRCC spokeswoman Nancy said. Caron in a statement.

For the delegates attending the conference, “IRCC has taken every step available to expedite applications as soon as possible and facilitate travel for this event,” he said.

Processing times can be affected by the speed at which applicants respond to IRCC requests for more information, how easily that information can be verified and the complexity of an application, Caron said.

The capacity and resources at visa application centers and visa offices also play a role in processing time, he added.

“The IRCC is currently experiencing longer than usual processing times for visitor visa applications,” Caron said.

“All visa-required event participants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Waiting too long to apply can result in an application not being approved on time.”