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Ugandan gay rights activists granted visas for Canadian visit

Ugandan anti-gay activist Pastor Martin Ssempa carries a national flag while leading a procession backing the signing of the anti-gay bill into law, in Uganda's capital Kampala March 31, 2014.

© Stringer . / Reuters/REUTERS

The WorldPride Human Rights Conference will no longer be without significant Ugandan representation as more than half of the country's delegates have received visitor visas weeks after the Canadian government denied them entry into the country.

Of the 10 activists who were originally denied visas last month, six have their documentation in hand according to conference co-chair Brenda Cossman.

The four activists still without visas have not had their applications denied and are currently awaiting a response from the government.

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Ms. Cossman, who has been working closely with Canadian officials throughout the re-application process, said the government has "been extremely helpful and cooperative in trying to get the visas through."

"We are thrilled that there is going to be a significant Ugandan delegation coming," said Ms. Cossman. "I think it's really important to hear from the Ugandans [about] the struggles that they're engaged in."

On May 23, The Globe and Mail reported that Canadian immigration officials would reconsider whether to grant visitor visas to 10 Ugandan gay rights activists planning to attend the WorldPride Human Rights Conference once they reapplied with more comprehensive applications.

They had initially been denied visitor visas because officials were not satisfied that the activists would leave Canada at the end of their stay.

"It would have been a tremendous loss given what this conference is about. It's not only about the hotspots around the world but it certainly needs to be inclusive of the hotspots," said Ms. Cossman.

The WorldPride Human Rights Conference is set to take place from June 25-27 at the University of Toronto.

With files from Kathryn Blaze Carlson

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