Labour dispute leaves Chirva in limbo

Matthew Gourlie
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Warriors' Russian prospect waiting for visa

Alexander Chirva

Matthew Gourlie

Moose Jaw Times-Herald

Unhappy bureaucrats in Moscow will have a negative impact on the Moose Jaw Warriors training camp when it opens Thursday.

Russian defenceman Alexei Sleptsov will be in Moose Jaw Wednesday to prepare for his first Western Hockey League camp, but his compatriot Alexander Chirva is stuck in Moscow due to an on-going labour dispute.

Canada’s foreign service workers have been on strike since April and as a result Chirva hasn’t been able to obtain his visa to enter the country.

“We’re not the only team dealing with this. The Canadian foreign services strike has affected some of the visa process on some of the guys getting to North America,” said Warriors general manager Alan Millar. “The Quebec league started their camps earlier than us and they’re still waiting on guys as well.

“The positive is that he is just waiting for his visa and he’s committed to come.”

The rotating strike began at embassies and as the dispute continued, the union for the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers withdrew visa services at their 15 biggest processing centres — including Moscow. Refugee claimants are having their visas processed, but Chirva is one of many people — including countless students looking to study in Canada this fall — who are stuck waiting to have their visa applications processed.

The 1,350 members of the union voted 82 per cent in favor of fighting for “equal pay for equal work” in March. The membership argues that they make $3,000-14,000 less per year than other employees in the Canadian federal government.

Some Canadian foreign service officers are still at work and the Canada Visa Application Center has not stopped handling visa applications, but there is a backlog.

“I talked to Chirva’s agent (Tuesday) and he felt that some visas were starting to be handed out right from around the time of Alexander’s application,” said Millar. “So he’s hopeful that it could be any day now. They are processing (visas), they’re just substantially behind.”

Sleptsov was a member of Russia’s under-17 team for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge last December in Quebec and therefore already had his Canadian visa processed.

Sleptsov played in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament with the Russian under-18 team. After the tournament he went to Calgary, where his agent is based, a week ago.

“He’s been there training with some WHL players and he’ll be in town (today),” said Millar.

Both players have their IIHF transfers approved and both are members of the Warriors in the eyes of hockey’s international governing body.

“Sometimes the longer process is the International Ice Hockey Federation transfer card and that’s approved and in place,” said Millar.

Sleptsov was the Warriors top selection in this year’s Canadian Hockey League import draft. The defenceman was selected with the 17th overall pick. Chirva, a six-foot-one winger was selected 57th overall by the Warriors.

Organizations: Western Hockey League, Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, International Ice Hockey Federation Canada Visa Application Center Canadian Hockey League

Geographic location: Moscow, Canada, Quebec Moose Jaw North America Russia Calgary

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