Canada rejects visas of Russian delegates to attend space conference

Top Russian astronaut Sergei Krikalev among those denied entry to International Astronautical Congress

General Walter Natynczyk, president of the Canadian Space Agency, participates in a plenary session with leaders of other major space agencies at the 65th International Astronautical Congress in Toronto on Monday, September 29, 2014. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

General Walter Natynczyk, president of the Canadian Space Agency, participates in a plenary session with leaders of other major space agencies at the 65th International Astronautical Congress in Toronto on Monday, September 29, 2014. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Canada’s refusal to allow Russian delegates to attend a prestigious international astronautical symposium has angered Moscow, which said the decision flies in the face of international space co-operation and amounts to politicizing space exploration over the conflict in Ukraine.

A spokesman for the Russian embassy on Tuesday called Ottawa’s decision to deny visas for the delegates — including one of the country’s most renowned astronauts — unfortunate.

“In this regard, we can only express regret that a number of members of the Russian delegation did not get their visas,” Kirill Kalinin, second secretary at the Russian embassy in Ottawa, told The Canadian Press.

“This act unfortunately does not bring benefit to the Russian-Canadian bilateral relations.”

Ottawa initially declined to discuss the issue, citing privacy concerns, but on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada confirmed some applications were denied, while others were still being reviewed.

“Each will be assessed on its merits by professional, non-partisan public servants in accordance with Canada’s security and immigration laws,” Nancy Caron said in an email.

An official with Roscosmos — the Russian space agency — said only two of its 10-strong delegation received Canadian visas for the 65th International Astronautical Congress — both of them translators who were the last to apply.

“Failure to obtain visas for Russians is clearly politically motivated,” the official told the Interfax news agency.

On Monday, The Canadian Press reported how the absence of the Russians had blindsided the president of the Canadian Space Agency, Walter Natynczyk.

The retired general said he had only just learned about the visa issue.

“I guess I’m equally surprised,” Natynczyk said. “Before I come to any conclusions, I would like to know exactly how it transpired.”

On Tuesday, the Moscow Times said famed cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev — who spent 10 months aboard the orbiting Mir space station in 1992 — was among the Russians denied visas to attend the week-long conference in Toronto, considered the world’s biggest space gathering. The theme of this year’s event is “Our World Needs Space.”

However, Krikalev was reported as telling the TASS news agency that he simply applied for a visa too late, a point disputed by Roscosmos.

“All the visa applications were filed on time,” Irina Zubareva, Roscosmos press secretary, told The Moscow Times.

It remains unclear what Russia can do to protest the situation, given the exclusive right countries have to deny visas.

Canada also denied visas to some Chinese delegates.

Berndt Feuerbacher, past president of the International Astronautical Federation, said he regretted the absence of the Russian and Chinese space-agency heads.

“They were foreseen to be here with us, they have been with us in the past, and they will be with us in the future,” Feuerbacher said.

“It is just unfortunate, due to problems especially in the visa area, that we couldn’t have these delegations here. I apologize for this.”

Jack Harris, a New Democrat MP, attended the congress’ opening sessions. He said Tuesday the absence of the Russian and Chinese space leaders was keenly felt.

“I think it was significant from an international relations point of view,” Harris said.

But he noted the conference has been running for 65 years and has been apolitical, something that the visa dust-up isn’t likely to change.

“Questions were raised whether it says anything about the future of collaboration but the response by the leadership there was that they didn’t see that as a consequence,” he said.

Canada has previously taken a hard line against Russia space-wise. In April, the government called off the launch of a Canadian communications satellite on a Russian rocket citing “current events in the Ukraine.” Ottawa has yet to say when it might approve the launch, a spokesman for the satellite company said Tuesday.

The Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute is hosting the showcase congress. About 3,000 delegates from space agencies, companies, academia and government from about 70 countries around the world, including France, South Africa and Mexico, have descended on the downtown convention centre.

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Canada rejects visas of Russian delegates to attend space conference

  1. Our govt is the Mad Hatter’s tea party….Harp as the Hatter, Baird as the March Hare….and Jason as the Dormouse.

    Only they would want to do business and have massive trade with those countries….and then publically ban and insult them.

    And in the very fields we need to advance in.

    If Canada survives Harp it’ll be a miracle…and I speak as an atheist.

  2. “Failure to obtain visas for Russians is clearly politically motivated,” as well as we also denied some Chinese too ?!

    These are astronauts/cosomonauts, scientists, engineers,…, why would the CON’s do such a stoopid thing ?!
    For gawd sakes, can someone please remove Harper now. Him and Mr. Tiggy Winkles(Baird), are certifiably nutz.
    omfg, Oct/2015 can’t come soon enough.

  3. What a stupid, childish act. Denying visas to delegates from China and Russia will serve no useful purpose. You can be certain Stephen Harper, infamous for his vindictiveness, was behind this. He seems to have a fixation for self-inflicted wounds. Only Russia has the means for flying to the International Space Station. Harper wants to do business with China. The phrase ‘dumb as a bag of hammers’ comes to mind.

  4. The schizophrenia or bi-polar.. not too sure what’s going on under that head of hair. In some cases, as in the case of spending ones summer vacation in the Arctic looking for lost ships is benign.. a bit fixated and a leap in saying this is furthering Canada’s northern policy but benign.
    Now take the case of this same Gov’t thrashing about on the world stage, making statements and presenting actions that have real consequences. Consequences that affect lives, like living and dying.. making callous decisions where dots that any normal human being are able to connect appears to escape the Harper gov’t.
    There has been a public plea made by associates (now mostly “former”) for Harper, or someone close to him, to reign in the stupidity. Even the caucus is reticent to participate in a weekend’s trashing of a Minister’s reputation attempting to defend this PM’s actions.
    My opening question was rhetorical, ..maybe it shouldn’t be..!!

  5. A space conference of any type without the Russians is ludicrous. From Tsiolkovsky to Baikonur they have been at the very centre of the art and science of space use and space travel. The Chinese are one of the few countries with an expanding space budget and developing technology for space exploration. Not to have those, and then to highlight Mexico? Harper’s bent for having all things science, from fisheries to space, subservient to his politics, narrow politics at that, and to confrontation shows a bankrupt, narrow-minded clique at its worst. I feel ashamed, as a Canadian, to be tarred by his brush. Space is about cooperation.

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