The Canadian government has taken its first decisive move with regard to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) saying it will not send a full delegation to the November summit in Sri Lanka.
Earlier the Canadians had called for improvements on the human rights issue in Sri Lanka failing which the Canadian Prime Minister said he may reconsider taking part in the summit.
Emma Welford, Spokesperson for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade told The Sunday Leader that Canada will continue to monitor events in Sri Lanka and do what it can to try to increase pressure on the government of Sri Lanka to make changes on the human rights issue.
“As the Prime Minister has stated very clearly, we expect our concerns to be addressed prior to the next Commonwealth Head’s of Government Meeting. However, given the current circumstances, it would be very difficult for this government to fully participate in this Summit,” Welford said.
Welford added that the Canadian government has spoken loud and clear on the issue of human rights in Sri Lanka, including its concerns on the lack of accountability for the serious allegations of war crimes, lack of reconciliation with the Tamil community, and with the events that have taken place since the end of the civil war.
Last week Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper hinted that he would like to see this year’s Commonwealth summit moved out of Sri Lanka in protest over the country’s human rights record.
In response to a Liberal question in the Canadian House of Commons about moving the whole summit to Canada, Harper said he and all MPs are of “one mind” on the issue.
He said the November conference is currently slated to take place in Sri Lanka, but noted that a number of countries would be willing to host the event.
Meanwhile Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird told the Ottawa Citizen that he raised the Sri Lanka issue under ‘other business’ at the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) meeting in London on Friday but said he was bound to secrecy and refused to comment on the reactions, if any, of other ministers.
“Nothing I have learned would cause me to give advice to the prime minister to change his opinion,” Baird said.
“We are appalled that Sri Lanka is about to host the Commonwealth leaders and be Chair in residence of the Commonwealth for two years,” he added.