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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Tories give Dalai Lama a wide berth

September 30, 2009

Canada's high-profile welcome in 2007 enraged China, and Ottawa is still
mending fences ahead of Harper's visit to the People's Republic

Rod Mickleburgh
Globe and Mail - Sep. 28, 2009

Vancouver - The Dalai Lama began a week-long visit to Canada Sunday,
preaching his traditional gospel of peace, compassion and forgiveness.

But unlike previous Canadian visits by the spiritual Tibetan leader, this
time members of the Conservative government seem to be staying far away from
the revered Buddhist monk with the engaging chuckle.

"[Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence] Cannon has no plans to meet the Dalai
Lama during his visit," ministry spokesman Rodney Moore confirmed .

Nor are there any announced meetings with Prime Minister Stephen Harper or
other cabinet members, two of whom made a point of journeying to Vancouver
in 2006 to greet the Dalai Lama and present him with honorary Canadian
citizenship. A year later, Mr. Harper held a 45-minute private meeting with
the Dalai Lama.

Canada's high-profile recognition of the 74-year-old exile enraged China,
which accuses the Nobel Peace Prize recipient of seeking independence for
Tibet and instigating the violence that swept Tibetan areas of China last

Indeed, a statement from the Chinese consulate in Vancouver
characteristically lashed out at the Dalai Lama's current appearance in the

"Wherever he goes, his purpose is merely to advocate separatism [in Tibet],"
the Chinese statement said. "We hope people will not be deceived by him."

However, the Dalai Lama made no reference to China during his remarks to a
sold-out audience at the University of B.C.'s Chan Centre yesterday, except
for an aside that some people consider him a demon and others a God-king.
"[Both of] these are nonsense," he said.

After his participation in the Vancouver Peace Summit and a series of panel
discussions with several other Nobel Prize laureates and prominent
innovators, the Dalai Lama will appear at events in Calgary and Montreal.

The government's apparent decision to shun the Dalai Lama during his visit
likely reflects recent fence-mending efforts by the Tories to restore
harmonious relations with China, ahead of an anticipated visit to the
People's Republic by Mr. Harper.

Governor-General Michaëlle Jean had been scheduled to share the stage with
the Dalai Lama yesterday, but abruptly cancelled her appearance last week.

Spokeswoman Marthe Blouin said the decision was prompted by family reasons
and had nothing to do with political pressure, noting Ms. Jean intends to
meet privately with the Dalai Lama on Tuesday.

"The Governor-General is free to make her own decisions ... and does not
need to have her schedule approved by the government," Ms. Blouin said in an

At the Chan Centre, sitting cross-legged and shoeless on a comfortable black
chair, the Dalai Lama surprised his reverential audience at one point by
admitting he was stumped by a question posed by moderator Mary Robinson. The
former UN high commissioner for human rights asked him about the role of
dignity in human rights.

"I don't know," the Dalai Lama replied. After a moment of awkward silence,
he chuckled merrily and added: "I think my right to say, 'I don't know,' is
part of my dignity."

Earlier, the Dalai Lama took the news media to task for sensationalizing bad
news. "People get the impression that humanity is something negative, that
the future of humanity is doomed, and human beings are violent."

But acts of love and compassion are taken for granted by the news media "and
don't become news," according to the Dalai Lama, who called for more balance
in reporting the good and the bad of human beings.

Although he likes to refer to himself as a simple Buddhist monk, the Dalai
Lama is treated like a rock star almost everywhere he goes. Scores of TV
crews and photographers recorded his arrival at the back entrance to the
Chan Centre, where he was protected by a phalanx of stern-looking security

All the same, it is considered unlikely that Vancouver Mayor Gregor
Robertson repeated the greeting given the Dalai Lama last week by Memphis
Mayor Myron Lowery. "Hello, Dalai," Mr. Lowery said, as he gave his exalted
visitor a fist bump.

With a report from Bill Curry in Ottawa
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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