Fri. Dec 2nd, 2022

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan is facing criticism from the opposition for not speaking out publicly on human rights during his World Cup visit to Qatar.

“If we don’t raise the issue of human rights when we’re in countries where we know human rights are being violated, we have no moral authority,” said NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson.

Sajjan attended the World Cup on behalf of the Trudeau government, where the Canadian men’s national team is competing for the first time in years. He met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and local officials.

However, Sajjan’s social media posts do not mention the documented abuse of migrant workers in the host country, nor the Emirate’s anti-LGBTQ policy.

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This concern has led to some broadcasters and players wearing “One Love” armbands. The German team covered their mouths when their official photo was taken.

Sajjan’s office said he was not available for comment Thursday because he was returning to Canada.

Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan, who is gay, said he felt divided by Qatar’s hosting.

“I’ll be honest, it’s very conflicting. I support my team; I support my country and (want) only the best. But I’ll tell you it’s a little difficult,” he said

O’Regan said he could not speak for Sajjan, but noted that the government had expressed concerns about Qatar before the games began.

“We know exactly where we stand; we clearly expressed our dissatisfaction,” he said.


Click to play video: 'Canada regroups after FIFA World Cup opener loss to Belgium'


Canada regrouped after losing their opening game to Belgium at the FIFA World Cup


The NDP called for a diplomatic boycott of the tournament.

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“You’re talking this out of both sides of your mouth, with this government,” McPherson said.

“This government has once again shown that they don’t care about human rights.”

On Monday, lawmakers unanimously passed a motion to censure FIFA for threatening to fine players who wore “One Love” armbands. The request claims that “international sports governing bodies have a moral obligation to support players and fans in highlighting the fight for equality against homophobia, transphobia and all forms of discrimination in sport”.

The captains of several European countries have abandoned plans to wear the “One Love” armband after FIFA, soccer’s governing body, warned they would face on-field sanctions.

Qatari media also reported that some fans wearing rainbow-colored clothing were refused entry to stadiums.

This month, Amnesty International rebuked Soccer Canada for its “deafening silence” on thousands of workers, mostly from South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa, who “have been subjected to labor abuses, appallingly low wages and other exploitation”.

Soccer Canada released a statement last month supporting the ongoing reforms, but refrained from criticizing the emirate.

Amnesty noted that peer confederations from Britain, the US, France and the Netherlands have backed calls for a compensation fund for migrant workers who were mistreated while preparing Qatar for the Games.

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The conservatives had no direct comment on Sajjan’s actions. Instead, MP Michael Chong said his party prefers the World Cup to be hosted by countries with a better reputation, such as Ukraine’s bid to host the 2030 tournament alongside Spain and Portugal.

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“Conservatives condemn in the strongest terms all human rights violations around the world and stand ready to work with our Democratic allies to support human rights,” Chong wrote in a statement.

The Bloc Quebecois repeated the NDP’s call for a diplomatic boycott and complained about Sajjan’s arrival in Qatar. “Canada has no excuse for turning a blind eye to human rights violations,” MP Martin Champoux tweeted on Monday in French.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Liberals called on the Harper government to raise the issue of human rights in China.

© 2022 The Canadian Press