Canada's governor general plans visit to Brno Romani museum during Europe trip

Canadian Ambassador Michael Calcott

The Canadian Embassy in Prague is busy making plans for a possible visit by the country’s governor general. Michaëlle Jean is due to visit the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia in early November, although officials stress the trip has yet to be confirmed. One stop on her proposed Czech itinerary is the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno, incidentally at a time when increasing numbers of Romanies are once again applying for asylum in Canada. Radio Prague spoke to Canadian Ambassador Michael Calcott:

“The reason that she wants to come to Central Europe, and it’s a four-country visit, is that she wants to strengthen links that we have with those countries and also celebrate those links as well as the immigration to Canada from all four. She’ll be promoting some of her own issues around integration of minorities, cultural diversity and celebrating – especially here - the transition to democracy in the late 80s and early 90s.”

There are reports the governor general will be visiting the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno at a time when increasing numbers of Czech Roma are applying for asylum in Canada. Is there any connection between the two?

Romani cultural museum in Brno
“There isn’t really. She has stated that one of the themes of her trip would be integration of minorities into the larger community, and that’s certainly something that’s a very potent issue for Canadians, given our immigrant make-up. The Romani cultural museum in Brno is one of the ideas we have for a visit during her trip. It hasn’t been confirmed, but it seems like a natural one given the Roma minority population here in the Czech Republic, and it’s also a wonderful celebration of a renaissance in Romani culture here in Central Europe.”

There has been some speculation in the Czech media that Canada may be forced to reintroduce visas for Czechs because of this new wave of Roma migration. Do you have any information on that, are there any such plans afoot?

“Well, the minister of citizenship and immigration was here in July, and she said at that point that we were not considering re-imposing the visa. We certainly monitor immigration from all countries, and we work with the Czech government and we keep one another informed. But at the current moment the number of immigrants to Canada from the Czech Republic is an issue that we both watch, but people have a right to come to Canada – Czechs certainly do. The number of applications is only one factor in a number that we would look at before we would consider re-imposing the visa, especially on a country that we have such strong ties with.”