Prime Minister Harper: Don't let my nationality prevent me from attending Canadian university

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Mr. Prime Minister,

I have been accepted to study at Quest University in British Columbia, Canada. As it stands now, the quest for me to obtain a higher education is impossible due to the visa ban on nationals from the three countries hardest hit by Ebola. I believe the ban is doing more harm than good.

It hasn’t been an easy effort as I tried to get admittance into a Canadian university. When I got accepted, I was not given financial aid right away. I had to scour every nook and cranny in my country for support in order to be granted financial aid. When I finally got it, it was late for me to join the summer 2014 class. Therefore, I had to wait for the next class, spring 2015. As I prepared for that one, the pronouncement came from your office to stop the issuance of visa. Again, the school, in sympathy with my plight, has placed me in the Fall 2015 Class. My appearance on campus lies in the good judgment of your office.

Quest University Canada is happy to have me as a student. My admission was not only based on my essay and but also my activities. I’m a journalist. In my country, I’m also a radio talk show host and an advocate for women’s rights.

I understand the fear Ebola brings to any nation and, as Prime Minister of Canada, you were acting in the interest of citizens when the pronouncement was issued. However, research done by University of Toronto expert, Dr. Kamran Khan shows that "only about 1.5 per cent of people traveling from those countries in any given year come to Canada.”

According to the Windsor Star, "A recent study Khan and colleagues published in the journal The Lancet showed the three countries — among the world's poorest — are not major contributors to international travel. Their combined travel made up half of one per cent of all international air travel in 2013. The figure would be expected to be substantially lower in 2014 as many air carriers cancelled flights to those countries. Flights from Liberia are down 51 per cent, from Guinea 66 per cent and Sierra Leone 85 per cent." The chance of Ebola entering Canada from one of these countries is incredibly small.

And as President Obama and the WHO Director General Margaret Chan rightly stated, isolation creates only stigmatization, which has been rife throughout the outbreak of the disease. To combat stigmatization the hashtag #I’mALiberianNotAVirus was created on social media to wide acclaim.

One of the primary reasons people died during the outbreak was because they feared giving up their customs and traditions. This caused the disease to spread rapidly. A close family friend succumbed to the virus alongside his wife and two kids due to the constant denial of his wife who didn’t believe the health information. With proper screening and awareness, the disease has been rapidly beaten back.

From financial support to vaccines, mobile laboratories, protective equipment and man-power, Canada has been one of the countries helping to combat the disease. But that visa ban struck me and many others a powerful blow. I've been trying to make my educational journey to Canada for close to a year and the ban issued by your office has surely dampened my efforts.

I'm imploring that you kindly lift the ban on the countries hit by the virus so that many others, not only me, can come to Canada.


Gboko John Stewart



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