Dalai Lama Presented with Honorary Canadian Citizenship

September 11th 2006

Vancouver, Canada 9 September 2006 (AP) The Dalai Lama has been presented with honorary Canadian citizenship, joining only two other people to have received the honour.

The decision by Canada's parliament to award citizenship to the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader has drawn criticism from China, which continues to rule Tibet.

'Welcome to our great country,' Immigration Monte Minister Solberg told the Nobel Peace Prize laureate on Saturday in front of a crowd of about 12,000. 'We will welcome you each and every time you return to Canada to share your message of kindness and compassion.'

The normally talkative Dalai Lama seemed at a loss for words.

'Now I am also a citizen of this country,' he said. 'I am honored to receive this citizenship.'

Canada has previously granted honorary citizenship to South African leader Nelson Mandela and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved Jews from extermination during World War II.

Solberg presented the Nobel Peace Prize laureate with a framed copy of the parliamentary motion granting him citizenship. Prior to his arrival, the crowd spontaneously burst into the country's national anthem, 'O Canada.'

Beijing has complained to the Canadian government about its decision, saying the gesture could harm relations. Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs says Canada recognizes China as the legitimate government of China and Tibet, but has great respect for the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama has focused on education, compassion and health during his visit to Vancouver, where he is inaugurating The Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education. He said Vancouver was chosen as the site of the center, the first to bear his name, because of its diverse population.

'This is purely educational, not political,' he said Thursday.

Among those on the center's advisory board are former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Earlier Saturday, the Dalai Lama shared the stage with author Deepak Chopra and others for a dialogue on happiness and stress as determinants of mental health.

Compassion has been a theme to which the Buddhist leader returned again and again in his Vancouver visit. He repeatedly stressed the need for people to embrace the compassion a mother shows her child.

Chopra also picked up on that theme.

'If we make motherhood the most scared profession on the planet, is there a chance for world peace?' Chopra asked.

The Dalai Lama was to meet privately Sunday with leaders from the social and corporate sectors, including senior Massachusetts Institute of Technology lecturer Peter Senge, founding chairman of the Society for Organizational
Learning.
 

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