Papua New Guinea official upset after Canada sends dancers home

A Papua New Guinea politician is threatening retaliation against Canadian companies after a dance troupe was denied entry to Canada upon landing in Vancouver.

Canadian companies could pay price after troupe denied entry at Vancouver

A Papua New Guinea politician is threatening retaliation against Canadian companies after eight young dancers were denied entry to Canada, apparently because border officials didn't believe they were on a cultural exchange.

The dancers arrived in Vancouver on July 4, expecting to spend four weeks in the British Columbia Interior, sharing traditional storytelling, dance and music at the invitation of the Little Shuswap Indian band.

Instead, they got four hours of interrogation by the Canada Border Services Agency, the CBC's Priya Ramu reported.

Malcolm Smith-Kela, a Papua New Guinea legislator responsible for sending the dancers to Canada, said the eight had never before been out of their country, which shares a border with Indonesia in the southwest Pacific.

All had return tickets, but border services agents accused them of wanting to stay longer in Canada, he told CBC News.

The agents, not using a translator, got the mistaken idea they were coming as cheap labour, he said. "In our language, 'Me like work-em sing-sing' means performing a sing-sing."

The prime minister of Papua New Guinea, Michael Somare, is sending a written complaint to his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, and the country's foreign minister will raise the issue at the United Nations, Smith-Kela said.

If his government does not get satisfaction, Canadians wanting to do business with Papua New Guinea could find doors closed, he said.

"We will refuse to let Canadian companies come in here or meet with the appropriate people, and I know there are a lot of oil licences pending on that, so it'll cost Canadian companies a lot of money," Smith-Kela said.

"We've gone as far as a diplomatic note, with my prime minister writing your prime minister. I don't think there's much I can do but wait and make things difficult for the Canadian companies that come here and let them put the pressure on their own government."

Borders services officials declined to comment on the specifics of the case.

Chief Felix Arnouse of the Little Shuswap band said he got a call from a border services agent when the dancers landed.

"She asked if these people are going to be working and I said, 'No, not as far as I know,' and she asked again, 'How much will you pay?' and I said they weren't working, and she asked the question again."