(Speech of Oscar Vigil as Guest Speaker at the Annual General Meeting of PEN Canada, on June 10, 2014, in Toronto. Oscar is member of PEN Canada since 2002)
The Colombian Nobel Prize, Gabriel García Márquez, who passed away this year, wrote in one of his last novel: “Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it”
For me, these days, “Life is not what I lived, is not what I remembers and is not how I remember it or how I recount it”.
For me, these days, “Life is how the Immigration Department believes I lived my life 25 years ago”, even though they are referring to a revolutionary broad movement, and not specifically about me or my life.
Sometimes I feel I am just a character in a Fiction Novel! And probably a character of a bad Fiction Novel!
25 years ago, during the civil war in El Salvador, working as a journalist, I had a good relationship with the rebels of that time: the FMLN. Sometimes I fixed interviews between them and foreign journalists, and at the end of the civil war, after the Peace Accords in 1992, I became the first Press Secretary of the new political party at that time.
I worked with the FMLN for less than a year, but maintained a good relationship with this organization that in the 80s and 90s was praised as a defender of the social justice in El Salvador.
But now, 25 years after those events, when the FMLN is the ruler party in El Salvador, when the FMLN, this year, won a second mandate to govern the country, Immigration Canada had declared me Inadmissible for this country.
The reason: They say I was a member of an organization that in one historic moment was involved in terrorist activities.
Let me be clear:
The FMLN is not in the terrorist list of Canada; and Canada has a very god political and economic relationship with the current Salvadorian Governments, which is in the hands of the FMLN.
But more important, a Security Assessment made for CBSA two years ago found that there are no evidence that I was involved in terrorist activities and that I am not a security risk for Canada.
This is a bizarre situation. But we are fighting it, and we are confident that we’ll be successful. We have the support of a lot of people and organizations, and we are working together with my Canadian wife and kids to overturn this situation.
I am here this evening to say thanks to PEN Canada for their support in my fight, but also to ask for support from all of you. Together, we need to help fix some of the problems the Canadian system has, in this case in the Immigration area.
Because at the end, after 14 years living in Canada with my family, writing stories, living my life as journalist, what is at stake now is the right for everybody to have access to all the sources we need when we are writing.
I am sure some of you had, have or will have contacts with persons or movements that are fighting their own fights for justice around the world. And if eventually Immigration Canada have the suspicion that one of those organizations is involved in terrorist activities, you could be declared inadmissible to live in Canada. You could be declared terrorist.
This could be a big problem for everyone, and we have to fight it.
You can find more information about my case and how to be involved in this campaign at the website www.vigilcampaign.ca.
Thank you so much.