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Afghan artist denied entry into Canada

A renowned Afghan artist is questioning why the Canadian government has denied her entry into Ottawa.

Hanifa Alizada, a photographer and teacher at Kabul University, is famous for her photographs illustrating the silencing of women. She had been invited to speak and exhibit her work at a symposium in January.

Alizada and her fiancé Gholam Reza Sepehri applied for visas through the Canadian High Commission in Islamabad, Pakistan. Their applications were refused.

Alizada received a letter from the High Commission stating that many factors were reviewed before rejecting her, including “travel and identity documents, reasons for travel to Canada, contacts in Canada, ties to the country of residence, and whether the applicant would be likely to leave Canada at the end of his/her authorized stay.”

The letter had an illegible signature, and the reviewing officer was not named.

Alizada told the Ottawa Citizen in an email that the commission never contacted her. She said she has travelled to the United States, Europe, and south Asian countries, “but I never overstayed and never got rejected by an embassy.”

Alizada added that she had no intention of leaving her job and family in Afghanistan.

Tony Martins, director of development for the School of Photographic Arts Ottawa, and the organizer of the symposium, told the Citizen he was extremely disappointed by the news, adding Alizada’s desire to exhibit in Canada “was a key factor in the development in the entire symposium.”

The High Commission refused to answer queries about Alizada, citing privacy laws.

—Lindsay MacMillan


Ottawa family seeks lost heirloom

An Ottawa family is looking to exchange the replica of a family heirloom with the original that was lost in 2013 near the Laurier bus station, “no questions asked, no hard feelings.”

The Mackenzie family recently put up a Craigslist post searching for the individual in possession of a hand-carved wooden tray. The tray was made by David Mackenzie, a woodworker who lives in British Columbia. David made the tray for his mother Babs, who held on to it until her death in 2013.

The tray was on its way to a cousin who cared for Babs in her final years when it was lost by another relative who forgot it at the bus stop. She returned to the stop 15 minutes after noticing she left it behind, but the parcel containing the tray was gone.

David Mackenzie is now facing a life-threatening illness, according to the listing. “Getting the tray back would be a tremendous boost to his spirits,” it reads.   

“It might be out there,” wrote the Mackenzie family. “We know that this is a shot in the dark, but we would be so happy to trade tray for tray and offer a reward as well.”  

—Mackenzie Powell

Principal scratches sixth grade students’ gay rights project

The Ottawa Catholic School Board is trying to resolve an incident that occurred at an elementary school after the principal did not allow two students to present a project on LGBTQ+ rights.

Quinn Maloney and Polly Mann-Hamilton, sixth grade students at St. George Elementary School, wanted to do a project about gay rights for the school’s social justice fair after hearing how the word “gay” was used negatively by their classmates.

Despite receiving support from their parents and teacher, school principal Ann Beauchamp nixed the project.

“They felt an injustice had been done,” Quinn’s mother Ann Maloney said to CBC. “I actually never dreamt this would happen in 2014,” added Polly’s mother Katherine Mann-Hamilton.

Both girls wore rainbow-coloured outfits to school the day after the decision was made, and other students drew rainbows on their hands in solidarity.

A statement by the school board said Beauchamp feared the students’ assignment wouldn’t be appropriate for younger students.

The mothers said they didn’t understand the decision since other students gave presentations on “messy, uncomfortable topics” like child soldiers and slavery.

Maloney added that their daughters had accomplished something in getting their peers to discuss gay rights outside of class.

The board later announced it planned to meet with the students’ parents on Dec. 1.

—Lindsay MacMillan