Canada Denies Visa to Courageous Cellist!

Vedran Smajlovic


OTTAWA (CP) -Canada has refused a visitor's visa to Vedran Smajlovic, who symbolized civilian courage in Bosnia by defiantly playing his cello on the Sarajevo street where 22 neighbours were killed in a bread lineup.

Deryk Houston, a Victoria, B.C. painter who invited the London-based musician to visit for 3 months, says the decision "disgraces" Canada.

"To me, it's like denying Gandhi or Mother Teresa a chance to visit Canada," Houston said.

He invited Smajlovic to Canada to co-author a children's book about a boy who meets the cellist and learns about the power of art to inspire hope and love amid the terror of war.

The photograph of Smajlovic in his formal tails braving sniper and shell attacks to play his cello on a street corner is one of the most poignant images of the war in former Yugoslavia.

A cellist in the former Sarjevo Opera Orchestra, he played for 22 days, one day for each man, woman and child killed when a mortar hit the bakery line-up in the summer of 1992. Smaljovic was to live with Houston until early July and visit schools, meet musicians and perform.

Immigration spokesperson Paul Armstrong said the Privacy Act prohibits the department from discussing the reasons.

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