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Canada denies entry to Winnie Mandela

world Updated: Jun 06, 2007 12:32 IST

Canada has denied entry to South African anti-apartheid leader Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who was to speak at a gala fundraiser in Toronto, organisers said.

"Ms Madikizela-Mandela has been denied access by the federal government to enter Canada and will not be able to travel to Canada" to attend the event, said Carole Adriaans on Tuesday, director of the arts group MusicaNoir.

Madikizela-Mandela "was packed today and ready to travel to the airport with her daughter (Zindzi) when she was informed that her visa had been denied by the Canadian embassy in South Africa," she said, citing Madikizela-Mandela's office.

Marina Wilson, a spokeswoman for the immigration department, would not comment on the specific case, citing Canadian privacy laws, but said "anyone convicted of a serious crime would be deemed inadmissible to Canada."

Adriaans told AFP Madikizela-Mandela was "devastated" by the decision, having been in New York only two weeks ago to accept an award for her work with AIDS and the United Nations-affiliated Save Africa Concerts Foundation.

"A week ago, they went to the (Canadian) embassy and felt everything would be fine. Yesterday morning, I got a telephone call saying she was having visa problems and was denied entry into Canada," she said.

Her distress was echoed by Canadian opposition leaders who demanded an explanation from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government. "It's an embarrassment," said opposition Liberal leader Stephane Dion.