Citizen Dalai Lama

June 26th 2006

Canada, 24 June 2006 (National Post) - The decision by Members of Parliament to unanimously support a Conservative motion to award the Dalai Lama honorary Canadian citizenship marks a welcome change in Ottawa's treatment of the exiled Tibetan leader. It is a special and high honour, one that has been bestowed only twice before, on South African leader Nelson Mandela and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Second World War. Like those other figures, the Dalai Lama is someone all Canadians can take pride in having as a fellow citizen.
One of the world's leading champions of peace and non-violence, and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Dalai Lama is both a spiritual leader and the head of state of Tibet, a country subjected to a brutal and continuing Chinese government occupation. Against that backdrop of communist repression, and attempts to force the assimilation of Tibet through population transfers and attacks on the social and religious fabric of the country, the Dalai Lama has stayed true to his peaceful teachings. He has repeatedly offered to enter into talks with the occupiers, and said he would consider something short of full independence for Tibet.

In response to his conciliatory gestures, the communists have strengthened their stranglehold on the country, contributed to its environmental destruction by turning it into a nuclear waste dump, and used China's economic clout to try to prevent any recognition being given either to the Dalai Lama or the cause of freedom for Tibet. Canadian prime ministers have been only too happy to submit to Chinese dictates. They steadfastly refused to meet the Dalai Lama until two years ago, when Paul Martin finally consented to a meeting. However, Mr. Martin, under pressure from China, insisted it take place outside any federal government building, on neutral ground. He also made clear his precondition that the meeting be held only in the Dalai Lama's capacity as a spiritual leader. Such absurd demands succeeded in undermining what should have been a pointed rebuke by Canada of China's Tibet policies.

The motion conferring honorary Canadian citizenship on the Dalai Lama, introduced by Tory MP David Sweet and supported by all parties in the House of Commons, does not address the question of the occupation. It is, however, an unequivocal honour for a great man in advance of his visit to Canada in September. They should go farther. The next time the Dalai Lama seeks a meeting with the Prime Minister, it should take place on Parliament Hill. Afterwards, His Holiness should be invited to address Parliament.

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