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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

NDP leadership candidate Peggy Nash “thrilled” when she met Dalai Lama

November 8, 2011

By Matthew Burrows,

Federal NDP leadership candidate Peggy Nash says she has met the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet on more than one occasion, thanks to the fact that the MP’s Toronto riding of Parkdale–High Park is home to “the largest Tibetan community in Canada”.

“And most of them came to Canada as refugees,” Nash said in a sit-down interview in the Georgia Straight offices today (November 3). “There are a lot of young people. Many of them came direct from Tibet. But many also came from Dharamsala, India, or from Nepal.”

Nash said she finds the local Tibetan community to be “really lovely people and good community members” who are devout Buddhist practitioners, “love their language, their culture, love the Dalai Lama, and all they want is the ability to live in Tibet in freedom”. Added Nash: “So I’ve been supporting their human rights struggles and, certainly, was thrilled to meet with his holiness Dalai Lama.”

Nash said she was optimistic there could be a solution found to the impasse surrounding China’s continued occupation of Tibet, which has been going on officially since 1959, though it started in 1951 with initial Chinese incursions into eastern Tibet.

She said she is aware of heightened tensions due to recent self-immolations in the Ngaba region of Amdo, in eastern Tibet, where the Kirti Monastery has been a hotbed for resistance against Chinese crackdowns and attempts to force Tibetans to undertake “reeducation” programs, wherein they learn Chinese and are forced to denounce the Dalai Lama.

“I just think it’s profoundly sad that this is happening, and these are not people who have historically done this,” Nash said of the self-immolations. “I think it speaks to the desperation that many people feel. They are just so sad that they feel they are losing their country. They’re not asking for independence; they’re just asking for what we would see as a normal right to be able to speak your own language, practise your religion, practise your culture.”

Nash said she believes Canada is generally “fairly outspoken” on the Tibetan issue.

“I know [Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism Minister] Jason Kenney has been to many of the Tibetan events and has spoken out [on Tibet],” Nash added.

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