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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Support the Rally for Rights in China

Suburban: Editorial —

If the Olympics are just games, then it belies what the Olympic movement itself says. It believes it is propagating universal values. But if those values are hijacked by tyrants, then what do we have left? The message that brute force is everything and can bend all to its will? That this alone constitutes “winning”? That there is nothing worth standing up for?

Sport does not take place in a vacuum. It is part of our everyday fabric. It is informed by events around us and is often used as a tool of propaganda. That is reality. The images we see on our screens and in our newspapers have very real overt and subliminal effects. Our reactions to those images, what we teach young people to value, have very real repercussions around the world.

That is why we are very gratified that the Ottawa rally for rights in China that we reported on last week is picking up steam. We want to encourage all of you to participate tomorrow, August 7th.

Buses are leaving Montreal from three locations tomorrow morning. At 8 a.m. they will be at Longueuil Metro. At 8:30 the buses will be waiting at Berri-UQAM. At 9 they will make their last stop at Snowdon Metro before proceeding to Ottawa.

Transportation has been organized and funded by the Canada-Tibet Committee and the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal. We urge all those who can go to call Dermod Travis, executive director of the Canada-Tibet Committee at 514-487-0665 and reserve your seat.

What has taken shape is a two-stage protest. At 11 a.m. Mount Royal MP and former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler has called a press conference on Parliament Hill in the Charles Lynch Room of the Centre Bloc. Cotler will present an 11-point plan for holding China accountable to international human rights standards. He will be accompanied by former Secretary of State for Asia Pacific David Kilgour, international human rights campaigner Nazanin Afshin-Jam and The Suburban’s editor Beryl Wajsman in his capacity as President of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal. After the conference they will proceed to meet the main body of demonstrators at the Chinese Embassy on St. Patrick Street. The rally will take place across the street from the main door of the embassy. Nazanin Afshin-Jam will be the spokesperson at the rally.

Cotler said that “what we are witnessing today in China is a persistent and pervasive assault on human rights — a betrayal of the Olympic Charter and China’s pledge to respect it — and, most important, a betrayal of the rights and hopes of its own citizens — and those of the international community.”

The organizers have brought together an impressive array of speakers. Aside from Cotler and those attending with him at the press conference, other speakers will include MP Scott Reid, Sam Samdup from the Canada-Tibet Committee, Canadian Friends of Burma’s Kevin Mcleod, Lucy Zhou and Pamela Mclennan speaking on behalf of persecuted Falun Gong, Reporters Sans Frontiers’ Katherine Borlongan, and Francis Yel from the South Sudan-Canada Association.

It is important to bear memory and witness at this time. To stand up and say that it is not just about bread and circuses. For when people ask in the future “Where were you when?” you can answer that you stood with conscience and courage.

If the time, talent and treasure we as a society spend on sports cannot be infused with the broader, nobler strivings of the human endeavour, are we any better than the crowds in the Roman coliseum of old waiting for the next victim to be fed to the lions? Simply by the amount of time it takes in our lives, sports matter in that they reflect our sense of self and morality. The best part of us as a people believe in co-operation as much as competition. Value compassion more than contempt.

Sport is not a moral resort area where we can afford not to take a stand.

2008-08-06 11:09:58

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