WSO expresses support for Canada's human rights position at Commonwealth summit

Ottawa (October 31, 2011):  The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) has written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, commending his role at the recent Commonwealth summit held in Perth Australia and expressing support for Canada’s international human rights agenda. 

Canada’s delegation to the summit, lead by Prime Minister Harper,  played an important role in encouraging member states to  focus on an agenda of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  Furthermore, Prime Minister Harper has said that he will not attend the next Commonwealth summit to be held in Sri Lanka, unless the state addresses its serious human rights issues including allegations of war crimes and continuing abuse of the country's Tamil minority.

Human rights remained a key issue throughout the Commonwealth summit.  A report by the “Eminent Persons Group” which includes Canadian senator Hugh Segal, made several key recommendations including the establishment of a Charter of the Commonwealth and the appointment of a Commissioner for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Human Rights to track member nations which persistently violate human rights, and to recommend "remedial action."

Unfortunately, the report was not made public due to opposition to the proposed reforms by some member countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and India.  It is notable that Nigeria, Sri Lanka and India all have serious domestic human rights issues and appear on the list of the top 30 human rights abusers in the Human Rights Index published by the School for Culture and Peace in Barcelona, Spain. 

WSO President Prem Singh Vinning said, “The promotion of human rights is an issue dear to the hearts of Canadian Sikhs.  Canada has always been a human rights leader and it was heartening to see Prime Minister Harper continue in that tradition at the Commonwealth summit.  Member states who consistently violate human rights must be held accountable and taken to task.”

WSO’s Senior Policy Advisor Gian Singh Sandhu said, “It’s unfortunate that some Commonwealth member countries continue to oppose human rights reforms.  It’s telling that that those very countries themselves have serious human rights problems.  These states need to understand that turning a blind eye towards human rights and demanding silence isn’t a solution.  Canada must continue to press these states for reform.”

The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.

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