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Canadian MP talks Tibet in parliament, supports Middle Way Approach

June 12, 2017

Parliament of Canada, Hansard #188, June 6, 2017 - On June 6, Garnett Genuis MP for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan (Alberta) spoke in the House of Commons:

I want to talk a bit about the situation around religious freedom in Tibet and the importance of the government on raising these issues.

I had the pleasure of serving as the vice-chair of the Canada-Tibet interparliamentary friendship group, of participating in the friends of Tibet internship program, having someone in my office involved in that program, who is doing a great job. This is on the demolition of Larung Gar.

In 2016, the Chinese government began the wide scale demolition of Larung Gar, one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist centres in the world, with plans to downsize it by 50% and evict half of its 10,000-plus residents. The evictees were forced to sign a document pledging to neither return to the institute nor continue their practice in their home town.

In 2016, the Freedom House report ranked Tibet the second worst in political and civil rights after Syria. Similarly, Amnesty International has reported on the increasing restrictions on Tibetan monastic institutes by the Chinese government. Despite the continuing repression, Tibetans and Tibet have been at the forefront of the Tibetan's movement to fight for their fundamental human rights.

In 2016, the European Parliament adopted an emergency resolution on Tibet, condemning the demolition of Larung Gar and calling for the resumption of dialogue with Tibetan representatives.

This past February, on the eve of the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, six independent UN experts expressed concern over China's systematic religious crackdown and the violation of international human rights. The U.S. congressional delegation to Dharamsala last month called for a rethink of policies to defend and promote human rights in Tibet.

Given the international condemnation of China's Tibet policies, Canada should also stand on the right side of history. As the Canadian government seeks to develop stronger ties with China, it should be consistent in doing it in the way that is consistent with our values, seeking to have China adopt the middle way approach. The middle way approach, for members who do not know, is advocated by the Tibetan community, by the Dalai Lama himself. It calls not for independence, but for genuine autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution.

The Canadian government has at different times called for dialogue, but it should go the next step and endorse the middle way approach, which is genuine autonomy for Tibet within the framework of the Chinese constitution. Certainly it is consistent with the principles of the self-determination of peoples that has established international law in which the government is supposed to believe.

When we think about the use of House time, the government could have chosen to bring forward a motion that dealt with something concrete and specific like a motion similar to the one passed by the European Parliament, specifically condemning the demolition of Larung Gar. Instead, though, the Liberals would rather talk in big generalities so they have an opportunity to pat themselves on the back without actually dealing with specific issues, such as this terrible demolition and some of the broader issues of human rights in Tibet.

It would be worthwhile, even outside of a motion of the House, if the Minister of Foreign Affairs made some specific statements about human rights in China, specific statements with regard to this demolition.

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