By Cindy Chan
Epoch Times Ottawa Staff
|May 15, 2008
David Kilgour (centre), Canadian Ambassador of Humanity for the Global
Human Rights Torch Relay (HRTR), leading the first leg of the torch run
starting from the Chinese embassy in Ottawa. On the left are Falun Gong
practitioner Yao Lian and Shak Sagour from Canadian Friends of Sudan
(CFS). On the right are Grace Wollensak, an organizer of the Ottawa
HRTR, and CFS president and founder Justin Laku. (Samira Bouaou/The
OTTAWA—A global torch
relay to highlight the Chinese regime's worsening human rights abuses
prior to the Beijing Olympics met with a warm welcome in Canada's
capital on May 14.
Elected officials, NGOs, democracy and human rights activists,
persecuted groups, local musicians, and concerned supporters rallied on
Parliament Hill to receive the ceremonial arrival of the Global Human
Rights Torch Relay (HRTR).
Initiated by the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of
Falun Gong (CIPFG), the HRTR is a global grassroots campaign to press
for an end to human rights atrocities in China before the Olympics in
Nearly 20 speakers addressed the crowd. Many at the rally were
wearing HRTR T-shirts and holding signs calling on the Chinese regime
to stop abuses against its own people, who include Tibetans, Uyghurs,
Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, journalists, lawyers, democracy
and human rights advocates and other groups.
"We must use the Olympics to shine the Olympic Torch on the
human rights violations in China," said Winnipeg-based international
human rights lawyer David Matas.
Mr. Matas pointed out that the Chinese government promised to
improve human rights if awarded the Olympics, but "that has not
happened, and we must do what we can to make that promise real."
Columbia Liberal MP Hon. Keith Martin (centre), President Justin Laku
of Canadian Friends of Sudan (CFS) (left), and Shak Sagour from CFS
(right) leading the torch run during one leg of the HRTR in Ottawa on
May 14. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
MP Scott Reid, chair of the House of Commons Subcommittee on
International Human Rights, noted the importance of supporting "those
who share the values that [Canadians] share: of decency, openness, and
respect for human rights."
Those being persecuted are all citizens of China who have
significant rights under UN conventions and the Chinese constitution,
he said, but their human rights are "repeatedly and systematically
violated by the Chinese government."
"The Chinese government does not represent China when it does
this…it represents the antithesis of everything that China stands for,"
said Mr. Reid.
Moment of Silence
The rally was co-organized by CIPFG, Canadian Friends of Burma,
Canadian Friends of Sudan (CFS), B'nai Brith Canada, and Canadian
Coalition for Democracies (CCD).
The relay "also provides an opportunity to expose the regime's
support of rogue regimes that slaughter their own citizens, including
Sudan (Darfur), Burma, Zimbabwe, and North Korea," said the Ottawa
event's news release.
International human rights lawyer David Matas, Falun Dafa Association
of Canada's President Li Xun, Yukon Liberal MP Hon. Larry Bagnell,
President David Harris of Democracy House, Executive Director Naresh
Raghubeer of the Canadian Coalition for Democracies, Director of
Government Relations Michael Mostyn of B'nai Brith Canada, Ontario
Conservative MP Scott Reid, British Columbia NDP MP Bill Siksay,
Catherine Lukits, and Stephanie Perry. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
The afternoon event began with a 2.5-kilometre torch run from the
Chinese embassy to the Human Rights Monument outside Ottawa City Hall
and then to Parliament Hill. About 30 supporters and representatives of
persecuted groups in China participated in the run. Hon. David Kiglour,
Canadian Ambassador of Humanity for the HRTR and former Secretary of
State for Asia-Pacific, led the first leg of the run starting from the
Chinese embassy. MP Hon. Keith Martin and CFS president Justin Laku
also led different legs of the run.
In addition to Mr. Reid and Mr. Martin, the cross-party group
of MPs who attended the event included MPs Bill Siksay, Rob Anders,
Catherine Bell, and Hon. Larry Bagnell.
Mr. Kiglour, who co-hosted the rally with CIPFG's Ottawa
representative Pam McLennan, began the ceremony by asking rally
participants to observe a moment of silence for the victims of the
recent cyclone disaster in Burma and the devastating earthquake in
Several of the speakers ceremoniously held torches as did two young women adorned as Olympian goddesses.
The Jewish people have all too often faced persecution alone, said
Michael Mostyn, Director of Government Relations of B'nai Brith Canada.
That is why his organization "stands in solidarity with all the victims
of Chinese oppression around the world," he said.
"In China, any belief that is not officially endorsed by the
government is repressed, often brutally," he said, noting that Canadian
citizen Huseyin Celil from the Uyghur Muslim community is still
imprisoned in China.
Mr. Siksay said that Canadians "must not allow our economic
interest or concerns for trade opportunities to trump our concerns
about human rights." Occasions like the Olympics are important, he
said, but "we must ensure our participation is measured and not
exploited to goals contrary to our values and the values of such
Conservative MP Scott Reid speaking at the HRTR torch receiving
ceremony on Parliament Hill on May 14. Mr. Reid is Deputy Leader of the
Government in the House of Commons, Conservative Party Deputy House
Leader, and Chair of the International Human Rights Subcommittee of the
Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
(Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Mr. Bagnell, chair of Parliamentary Friends of Burma, spoke of
Beijing's support of the "cruel dictatorship that has done so much to
suppress human rights in Burma."
Noting that the Chinese regime funds and arms the Sudanese
government-supported Janjaweed militia that is committing genocide in
Darfur, Mr. Laku urged "people of any colour to come into solidarity to
fight this evil government of China."
Naresh Raghubeer, executive director of CCD, said the "One
China" policy prohibits Canada from speaking "vocally and strongly."
Calling the regime "a serial abuser," he said "unless we can honour
those that don't have a voice under the Chinese regime, we will not see
Li Xun, president of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada,
spoke of the persecution of Falun Gong. The estimated 100 million
practitioners of the spiritual practice have experienced an
unprecedented level of persecution by the communist regime since 1999.
In his March 2006 report, UN Special Rapporteur Manfred Nowak
stated that 66 per cent of victims of alleged torture in China were
Falun Gong practitioners.
Gong practitioner Yao Lian (centre) holding the Human Rights Torch,
accompanied by Canadian Friends of Sudan's president Justin Laku (left)
and member Shak Sagour (right), in front of the Human Rights Monument
beside Ottawa City Hall. Yao's husband, Falun Gong practitioner Ma
Jian, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in forced labour camp in April 2007.
(Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
The U.S. State Department's human rights report on China released
in March 2008 stated, "Some foreign observers estimated that Falun Gong
adherents constituted at least half of the 250,000 officially recorded
inmates in reeducation-through-labor camps."
Mr. Kilgour and Mr. Matas published reports in 2006 and 2007
providing compelling evidence that the regime has harvested and sold
the organs from tens of thousands of imprisoned Falun Gong prisoners of
conscience since 2001.
In their recently published annual reports, Nowak and UN
Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir reiterated their request to the
Chinese regime to explain the organ harvesting allegations.
Other speakers included David Harris, president of Democracy
House; Brian McAdam, a director of China Insight Research Society; and
Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher.
Mr. Kilgour also invited rally attendee Rabih Kassis to speak
in support of the Tibetan people. The youngest speaker was 17-year-old
Stephanie Perry from Nepean High School, one of the two young women
representing Grecian goddesses, who gave a speech on behalf of the
group "Youth Reaching Out."
Local musicians Steve Grove, Carlton Howard, Olivia Santos,
and Chance Parkes performed in support of human rights, as did Caroline
Addison, Jason Fryer, and Tom from the band River City Junction. Mr.
Parkes wrote the song "Freedom Fighter" for the HRTR event.
'A Beacon of Hope'
Mr. Martin called the Human Rights Torch "a beacon of hope for those who do not have a voice."
Each time an Olympics has been held in a totalitarian state,
history has seen the eventual collapse of those regimes, noted Mr.
McAdam. This happened after the Olympics in Berlin in 1936, Moscow in
1980, as well as Korea in 1988. Mr. McAdam expressed hope that "one day
the 2008 Olympic Torch will work its magic again to become the impetus
for China's transition to democracy."
Columbia NDP MP Bill Siksay speaking at the Ottawa HRTR rally on
Parliament Hill. The HRTR, through grassroots events, speaks out
against the Chinese communist regime's persecution of Tibetans,
Uyghurs, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, democracy advocates,
human rights supporters, journalists, lawyers, and other groups.
(Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
"If we do not stand together to protect and help those in need,
then what is the point of freedom?" said Ms. Perry. "We are here today
because we can and will change the way people are being treated by the
Chinese government," she said.
"We are not being political by moving forward human rights in
the context of the Olympics," said Mr. Matas, "because human rights is
above politics. Human rights stands for universal values."
"What we're dealing with in China is a violation of the
fundamental principles of humanity. We must use every occasion to
protest the violations of these principles. If we do not do that, we
cease to be human."
The HRTR calls on China to release all prisoners of
conscience, "hundreds of thousands of them," and to stop its support of
corrupt regimes in Burma and Sudan.
Beginning in Athens last August, the HRTR has since visited an
estimated 150 cities in about 40 countries on five continents,
including 10 cities in Canada this month. Ottawa is the fifth stop
after Halifax, Quebec City, Winnipeg, and Montreal. The relay will
continue on to Toronto, Kingston, Calgary, and Edmonton, making its
last Canadian stop in Vancouver on May 25. For more information, please
visit www.humanrightstorch.org .
Conservative MP Rob Anders speaking at the Ottawa HRTR rally on
Parliament Hill. In the background are Director Naresh Raghubeer of the
Canadian Coalition for Democracies, Director of Government Relations
Michael Mostyn of B'nai Brith Canada, and British Columbia NDP MP
Catherine Bell. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Columbia NDP MP Catherine Bell holding the Human Rights Torch on May 14
on Parliament Hill next to a banner that carries the central message of
the HRTR: "The Olympics and crimes against humanity cannot coexist in
China." (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Justin Laku, president of Canadian Friends of Sudan (CFS) speaking at the Ottawa HRTR. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Columbia Liberal MP Hon. Keith Martin speaking at the Ottawa HRTR rally
on Parliament Hill. Mr. Martin, a former parliamentary foreign affairs
critic and international human rights critic, led one leg of the torch
run from the Chinese embassy to Parliament Hill. (Samira Bouaou/The
Ottawa musician Chance Parkes wrote and performed the song "Freedom
Fighter" in support of the HRTR. (Courtest of Mrs. Parkes)
Perry, who served as one of the Olympian goddesses at the Ottawa HRTR
event, gave a speech on freedom, democracy, and human rights. In the
background are Executive Director Naresh Raghubeer of the Canadian
Coalition for Democracies and Brian McAdam, a director of China Insight
Research Society. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)