Canadian PM to meet His Holiness in public
Wednesday, 24 October 2007, 11:00 a.m.
Ottawa: When His Holiness the Dalai Lama meets Stephen Harper in Ottawa next week, it will be the first time a Canadian prime minister has agreed to meet the exiled Tibetan leader in public.
Conservative Senator Consiglio Di Nino said that, unlike former prime minister Paul Martin, who would only meet the exiled Tibetan leader privately to avoid angering the Chinese government, Mr Harper will allow cameras to record the moment.
“The Prime Minister has already agreed to meet with him and will be receiving him. The details haven’t yet been concluded but I suspect there will be some media in attendance,” said Mr Di Nino, a member of an all-party group of parliamentarians.
In 2004, Mr Martin met His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the home of Ottawa Roman Catholic Archbishop Marcel Gervais in what was billed as a historic meeting after Jean ChrÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©tien, his predecessor, refused such a meeting.
Mr Harper will be the fourth Western leader to meet His Holiness in recent weeks, after U.S. President George W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian. In the run-up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the 72-year-old Buddhist leader is attempting to raise the profile of Tibet’s struggle for autonomy.
He is an honourary Canadian citizen, recipient of the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal and a Nobel Peace Prize winner who has been living in exile in India since 1959.
At a press conference Monday, Mr Di Nino said Tibetan flags, which were banned in China after its invasion of Tibet in 1950, will be flown by town halls in Thunder Bay, Ont., St. John’s, N.L., and Blainville, Que., in support of His Holiness the Dalai Lama during his three-day visit to Canada. The visit begins Sunday in Ottawa.
Apart from his meeting with Mr. Harper, the charismatic leader is scheduled to speak at stadiums in Ottawa and Toronto.
The Conservative government, which has angered China on several fronts, sent two senior government representatives to Vancouver in September 2006 to honour the Dalai Lama’s visit to Canada.
Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, who was Mr Harper’s parliamentary secretary at the time, and Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg, who was immigration minister at the time, travelled to British Columbia to see the leader.
The Chinese government was, as expected, critical of the visit by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Last week, Mr Bush’s meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama infuriated China’s Communist leaders, who said they were insulted by American “interference.”
Mr Di Nino said he expects a similar reaction from China over the leader’s visit to Ottawa.
–Jack Aubry, The National Post