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Tibet and China: The time is now

Intervention by David Kilgour, MP for Edmonton Southeast

Policy Seminar with the Dalai Lama

Tibet-China Negotiations: Building Peace through Dialogue

Drawing Room, Chateau Laurier
24 April 2004

Your Holiness, you told the Canadian Club yesterday that you have a lot of friends. We’d hope that your friends now include about 31 million Canadians after this triumphant—but modest—trip.

Let me only say that your visit to Parliament Hill was like nothing I’ve ever seen in 25 years. You were swarmed by both Parliamentarians and people who work on the Hill. Its seems to me that at least a hundred MPs and Senators had their photo taken with you. One lady you shook hands with was crying.

But ladies and gentlemen, is the time for talk without action not over?

  It is very easy to voice bromides about human rights in a policy vacuum. The true test is assuring that they are applied universally—forming the basis of each foreign policy decision we make.

Human rights abuses in Tibet, including the right to sustainable development, continue to be appalling—as we all know.

Yet if the rights of every child, woman or man in Tibet are not important to Canadians and their governments, should we all not drop the long-held view that human rights are a central feature of Canadian foreign policy?

Standing in Centre Block yesterday many present heard Thubten Samdup of the Canada-Tibet Committee say: “Tibet has had enough sympathy. What it needs now is action.” Act we must, and without delay.

As the new chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights, I plan to seek colleagues’ approval next week to make the situation in Tibet our first order of business in our upcoming study on human rights in China.

Finally, it’s disappointing that no-one from the Department of Foreign Affairs was able to attend today. The words we have heard here from His Holiness and others should be heard by every foreign policymaker in Canada.



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