Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

On behalf of the Canadian Association of Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CALACS), we write to express our concern with the Canadian visa application process for Latin American and Caribbean scholars who wish to visit Canada for academic meetings and conferences. Our Association held its 50th annual conference at York University in Toronto on May 10-12 —a milestone for Latin American and Caribbean studies in Canada— and, unfortunately, four distinguished Latin American scholars, three Cuban and one Brazilian, never received their visas allowing them to travel to Canada, despite having undertaken the process more than three months in advance and having paid for all their travel and lodging expenses.

In the case of the Cuban scholars, the treatment they received from the Visa Section at the Canadian embassy in Havana was cavalier and disrespectful. The Canadian government only informed them that their visas were not going to be processed and that they would have to reapply outside of Cuba on May 8, just two days before the start of the conference. This conduct does not meet the standards we expect and demand from the Canadian public service.

We acutely felt the absence of these Latin American scholars and strongly debated the issue at our conference. At CALACS, we feel that Canada’s failure to deliver their visas interferes with our mission to foster the ongoing development of a dynamic Canadian-based, international intellectual community, to support research and teaching and to provide the infrastructure and capacity to facilitate knowledge mobilization and engagement strategies in Canada and abroad.

CALACS reaches out to and establishes partnerships with Latin American and Caribbean communities, NGOs, research institutions, and international academics. In addition, our Association works to inform policy makers, and public and private sector organizations through its events, publications, communications media and virtual resources. In so doing, we contribute to developing strong and long-lasting Canadian networks in Latin America and in the Caribbean and we promote Canada’s image and influence in the region. In this sense, Canada’s failure to provide visas for Latin American and Caribbean scholars in timely and respectful fashion can only be understood as a failure.

We appeal to you to make sure that Canadian visa processes never again stand in the way of scholarly activities, of free thought and of critical debate. Academic freedom can only promote and develop Canadian interests at home and abroad and is critically important for maintaining excellent political, economic and cultural relations with Latin American and Caribbean countries.


The Board of Directors of the Canadian Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.