Canadian democracy through the eyes of two Eastern European political immigrants

By Vesselin and Svetla Petkov

There are two closely related reasons for writing this article. First, as a lot of people in the world appear to have some kind of idealistically inadequate idea of Canada, we would like to offer first-hand information about how just and democratic the Canadian reality really is. This information is based on our personal experience and observations but it is fully in line with what so many people (not only immigrants) experience in Canada. We prefer simply to describe the three most shocking examples of what happened to Vesselin (omitting what Svetla and we both experienced) and let the readers draw their conclusions.

Second, to draw the public attention particularly to the truly disturbing third example because it revealed for all to see the darkest side of the Canadian society - this is the distressingly successful academic mobbing case at Concordia University in Montreal (covered by the Canadian media in October 2010) whose alarming developments gave rise to the suspicion of organized crime in the very legal system of the Canadian province of Quebec. We decided to go internationally public with this case, because taken even alone it clearly demonstrates (i) how proven with documented facts injustice (almost certainly involving criminal activities) so easily wins in Canada and (ii) how independent and democratic the Canadian media are since they refused even to examine the facts that raised the suspicion of organized crime.

In May 1990 we and our seven-year-old son arrived in Canada as political immigrants after having lived in Austria for one year. A year earlier - on May 29, 1989 - the authorities in Bulgaria gave us 24 hours to leave the country when we accused them of destroying the moral values of the nation and invited them to debate the issue live on TV. The case was covered by the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Free Europe, and the Voice of America (their broadcast in Bulgarian). It turned out that now there are people who still remember the case and would like to hear what we experienced and what we think, after 28 years, about the so-called western democracy. Here we will briefly comment on the Canadian democracy; moreover we found that we share virtually the same views of Canada with all immigrants here with whom we discussed the issues of justice and democracy in Canada.

Canada is a country with a beautiful nature, generally nice people and good social programs. It would be perhaps the best country to live in (if one does not mind the cold and long winters), if the Canadian society were indeed as just and democratic as many people in the world are misled to believe it is. Here in Canada people can only joke about Canadian democracy (or perhaps rather hypocrisy) - when you ask the authorities whether you have certain democratic rights their answer is "of course, you have them, we are a democratic country" but when you ask whether you can exercise them, the authorities immediately tell you "no, you cannot."

Let us now present the three examples of experiences (in which Vesselin was involved) that people may have in Canada.

When we arrived in Canada on May 3, 1990 we started to look for jobs while attending both French and English classes to master the two spoken languages in Montreal. As Vesselin's MSc degree is in nuclear physics and for four years he was part of the Mössbauer spectroscopy group in the Department of Atomic Physics at the University of Sofia, we spoke with the head of the Mössbauer spectroscopy unit at IREQ - the Research Institute of Hydro-Québec (the Quebec public electric utility). After a 40-minute professional discussion, the head of the unit encouraged Vesselin to apply for a position with them and he himself filled in the several-page application form for Vesselin. We were so glad that one of us so quickly found a position in his field of expertise. But several days later we received a letter from the central office saying that Vesselin's application was rejected because he was not a member of the Order of Engineers in Quebec?! Vesselin wrote back explaining that everywhere in the world that position is for a physicist, not an engineer, because Mössbauer spectroscopy is a nuclear-physics method. We received no answer. Over the years we learned that an important element of the Canadian democracy is "ignore." Despite his experience in Mössbauer spectroscopy Vesselin did not get the position at IREQ because he did not have a degree in engineering?!

In 1992, after several unsuccessful attempts to find a job (one of which, at an atomic power station in Ontario, also looked certain, but a new government was elected there, which froze all developments in atomic energy there), Vesselin decided to obtain a doctoral degree in physics from Concordia University. He already had a doctoral degree in philosophy (of science) from Bulgaria, obtained in 1988, and received its equivalent from the Quebec government, which recognized only one year of doctoral studies (!?); this equivalent is compulsory if an immigrant wants to have a government position in Quebec. While doing his PhD studies Vesselin applied for a Quebec bursary, but his application was rejected because ... he already had a doctorate from Bulgaria. After overcoming the initial shock and still not believing what we were reading, we went to the relevant Quebec officials and told them that probably there was an error, because there is an obvious contradiction - the same Quebec government cannot at the same time recognize and not recognize Vesselin's doctoral degree from Bulgaria. The Quebec officials stared at us innocently and said "There is no contradiction." We both looked at them and wondered whether these people had a serious problem with their thinking or they had been given (when employed) a course in government hypocrisy.

Gradually we learned that such innocent staring at you and calling the white black is not some typical Quebec délicatesse (although we heard and even read that Quebec had the highest level of corruption). We experienced the darkest side of the Canadian democracy (ranging from the Quebec government and legal system to the Canadian federal government and the media) in 2010 when a case of academic mobbing against Vesselin at Concordia University, where he had been teaching after defending his PhD in physics with the highest distinction, took a surrealistic turn when Concordia did not take actions against the mobbers but suspended Vesselin.

The Concordia academic mobbing case is described in detail on the page of the Petition to the Canadian Prime Minister to open an inquiry into the cases of bullying and academic mobbing in Canada ( This Petition was prompted by two tragedies in Montreal - at Concordia University (in 1992 when Valery Fabrikant took the life of four professors) and McGill University (in 1994 when Justine and Yves Sergent committed suicide) - and the 2010 academic mobbing case at Concordia. Here we give a brief summary of this case:

On September 28, 2010 Vesselin was suspended by Concordia University on the basis of a totally unfounded allegation: "serious threats to persons at the University" - those "serious threats" came from... the mere mentioning of Fabrikant's name, which would look like a childish assertion if it were not used as a demonization technique. Not only his name but the names of Justine and Yves Sergent were mentioned in a very clear and unthreatening context - Vesselin urged Concordia's administration to investigate the documented actions of academic mobbing against him, because he feared that such mobbing practices, which might have contributed to the 1992 tragedy, had not been completely eradicated at Concordia and insisted that these practices should be decisively and promptly confronted since they might have also caused another tragedy - Justine and Yves Sergent' suicide.

Regarding Vesselin's mentioning of Fabrikant's name, here is what Professor Kenneth Westhues, who is a renowned researcher of academic mobbing, wrote in a letter of September 29, 2010 to the Montreal Gazette's Managing Editor and Concordia's President Woodsworth:"On the face of it, the very aggressive action the Concordia administration is taking against Professor Petkov deserves close scrutiny by bodies outside the university. I was puzzled to read in President Woodsworth's letter that one of the two stated reasons Professor Petkov is suspended and threatened with dismissal is "continued references to Valery Fabrikant." I have read the references to Fabrikant in Petkov's open letter. The references strike me as thoughtful, reasonable, unthreatening, intelligent. They are not unlike references to Fabrikant made by many other professors, including Harry Arthurs, former president of York University. It is beyond me how making this kind of reference to Fabrikant can be a ground for suspension or dismissal."

The arbitration hearings of the case (i) showed that Concordia's allegations were completely groundless and (ii) proved through an eyewitness and documents that "There was a serious conspiracy to eliminate him from the University" (Concordia Union lawyer, from the stenographic transcripts). Inexplicably, both Concordia and its Union waited 18 (instead of the allowed 3) months for the arbitrator to render his decision until... he died.

After an arbitration decision (by a second arbitrator) that openly contradicted the evidence, one of Vesselin's lawyers made an abrupt U-turn and said that powerful people were behind the case and it could not be won. When pressed hard about his betrayal and those powerful people the lawyer lost his cool and said "you East Europeans are coming here to tell us, who were born in Montreal, how to behave," to which Vesselin responded in an email several hours later (to have it documented): we came to Montreal because we believed that Canada was governed by the rule of law. It was obvious to us that the lawyer could not do anything to act in accordance with the law, which was confirmed by the fact that when we left his office he told Svetla with a sad expression on his face "I know you expected a different development."

Another lawyer also made an abrupt U-turn (after sending documents to sue the previous lawyer) when he had been approached by those powerful people. After a two-hour intense meeting with Vesselin, the lawyer was unable to give any meaningful explanation of his betrayal (he only admitted he was approached and "advised") and totally exhausted at the end of the meeting angrily said "no lawyer would take this case." Indeed over 50 Quebec lawyers refused to work on the case.

Those powerful people succeeded in preventing the case from reaching the court. The democratic Canadian institutions and the independent Canadian media remained tellingly silent.

As all administrative and legal options were exhausted in Canada Vesselin started the online Petition to the Canadian Prime Minister and created a twitter account for the Petition ( Here are some of the replies by Canadians to the tweets which summarized the Concordia case (to show that what we wrote cannot be regarded as some exceptionally unfortunate and isolated incidents):

"Asking Trudeau to do anything to uphold our democracy? Not happening" ... "welcome to canada Lawyers run the show" ... "this is reality. Rich ppl control the courts" ... "Organized crime rots our existence to the very core!" ... "If the whole world knew how bad corruption really is in #Canada, our "beautiful" country would get nuked off of the map on the spot..."

On July 25, 2017 Vesselin sent a complaint against Canada to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations (Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). Less that two (!?) days later - on July 27, 2017 - the complaint was rejected and the High Commissioner for Human Rights refused to examine a distressing case of human rights violation in Canada (!) (denied justice by preventing a case from reaching the court) stating that "Domestic judicial or administrative remedies do not appear to have been exhausted" despite that the very reason (clearly stated and documented) why the complaint reached the High Commissioner's office was precisely that all judicial and administrative options had been exhausted in Canada.

It seems those powerful people had even longer tentacles than we thought - they knew Vesselin would file a complaint against Canada at the United Nations, if the case was not resolved here in Canada. Vesselin played fairly - he wrote to the Prime Minister that he wanted the case to be resolved within Canada, but if it was not, he would go international.

Frankly, Vesselin hesitated whether to play with open cards this time, but we carefully analyzed the possible implications of informing the Prime Minister and decided to take the risk to see whether even the High Commissioner for Human Rights could be influenced. Now it seems certain that his office had been informed and they were expecting Vesselin's complaint - otherwise they could not reply in less than 48 hours "After careful consideration of the contents of your petition, we sincerely regret having to inform you that the petition cannot be examined under the individual complaints procedure of the human rights treaties, as: 1. Domestic judicial or administrative remedies do not appear to have been exhausted..."

In less than 48 hours (in fact, around 36 hours) Vesselin's 24-page complaint could not have been studied properly (let alone verify (!!) the many facts and documents in the complaint to conclude that "Domestic judicial or administrative remedies do not appear to have been exhausted") and why would the High Commissioner for Human Rights treat Vesselin's complaint with such urgency and "privilege" given the fact that they receive complaints from all over the world?

In conclusion, we hope the readers will recall these examples (and others of which they are aware) when they see in the news that Canada lectures other countries on democracy, justice and independent media.

Vesselin and Svetla Petkov



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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov