Natalie Brender is a freelance journalist. Her column appeared on thestar.com,I canda doing the correct thing by boycotting the commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka?
It’s looking likely that Prime Minister Harper will boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Sri Lanka this November, due to that country’s deteriorating human rights and governance record. If so, Canada may be alone among the Commonwealth leaders in adopting a boycott. Other countries seem to be endorsing a policy of engagement and waiting for Sri Lanka to make good on its promises of democratic reform.
Why would Canada stick its neck out on this issue? The answer to that question depends on whether you’re looking primarily at the particulars of the Sri Lankan case. If so, you’ll notice that despite many promises to enact democratic reforms, the government of Sri Lanka is continuing to persecute its minority Tamil population, and is becoming increasingly authoritarian. In January it removed the Chief Justice of its Supreme Court from power after she delivered a judgment against the government’s efforts to expand its control over the state.
On the other hand, if you’re bypassing those particulars and taking a generalized cynical view of governmental decision-making on issues of concern to Canadian diaspora communities, your view will be rather different. It will look, for instance, like a recent Huffington Post Canada story that highlights one academic expert’s view of the Prime Minister’s apparent boycott as “pretty much pandering to a domestic audience” of Tamil Canadians, and as part of a larger electoral strategy of “catering to new Canadians.” Another academic expert similarly stated in a blog post last week that a Commonwealth boycott would be consistent with Canadian governments’ history of “pandering to the Tamil Canadians.”