Minister Sajjan, who visited Qatar, does not talk about human rights

OTTAWA – International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan has come under fire from the opposition for not making a statement on human rights during his visit to Qatar for the soccer World Cup.

“We have no moral authority if we don’t raise the issue of human rights in countries where we know human rights abuses are taking place,” said MDP foreign policy spokeswoman Heather McPherson.

Mr. Sajjan attended the World Cup on behalf of the Trudeau government as Canada’s men’s team competed there for the first time in years. He met with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and local officials.

However, Sajjan’s social media posts do not mention the host country’s mistreatment of migrant workers or the emirate’s anti-LGBTQ policies.

These concerns have led some broadcasters and players to sport wraps that read “One Love”. The German team kept their mouths shut when taking an official photo.

Sajjan’s office responded that he was not available for comment Thursday as he was returning to Canada.

Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan, who is gay, said he felt divided on the issue.

“Honestly, it’s very divisive. I encourage my team, I encourage my country and (only) the best. But let me tell you that it is a little difficult.”

Mr O’Regan added that he could not speak for Mr Sajjan, but noted that the government had raised concerns about Qatar before the event began.

“We know exactly where we are; We have openly expressed our displeasure.”

The NDP has called for a diplomatic boycott of the World Cup.

“This government has shown once again that it really does not care about human rights,” Ms Macpherson added.

On Monday, MPs unanimously passed a motion condemning the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) for threatening to punish players who wear One Love armbands. The petition argued that “international sporting bodies have a moral obligation to support players and fans in advancing the fight for equality, homophobia, transphobia and all forms of discrimination in sport”.

Captains of several European teams have abandoned plans to wear One Love armbands after soccer’s governing body FIFA warned they would face on-field penalties.

Qatari media also reported that some fans wearing rainbow clothes were not allowed into the stadiums.

This month, Amnesty International chastised Soccer Canada for its “deafening silence” against thousands of workers, mostly from South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa, who are “victims of abusive work, extremely low wages and other forms of exploitation.”

Soccer Canada issued a statement last month supporting the ongoing reforms, but avoided criticizing the emirate.

Amnesty noted that peer federations in Britain, the US, France and the Netherlands have backed calls for a compensation fund for migrant workers mistreated in Qatar’s run-up to the World Cup.

The Tories have not directly commented on Mr Sajjan’s actions. Instead, MP Michael Chong said his party preferred countries with better reputations to host the World Cup, citing Ukraine’s bid to host the tournament in 2030 alongside Spain and Portugal.

“Conservatives strongly condemn human rights abuses around the world and stand ready to work with our democratic allies to uphold human rights,” Chong wrote in a statement.

The Bloc Québécois also called for a diplomatic boycott and regretted Mr. Sajjan’s presence in Qatar. “Canada has no excuse for turning a blind eye to human rights abuses,” MP Martin Champoux wrote on Twitter on Monday.

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

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