FIFA World Cup: Qatar faces heightened human rights scrutiny with Sajjan return – National

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

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

Sajjan attended the World Cup on behalf of the Trudeau government, which sees Canada’s men’s team compete for the first time in years. He met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and local officials.

But Sajjan’s social media posts make no mention of the host country’s documented mistreatment of migrant workers or the emirate’s anti-LGBTQ policies.

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These concerns have led some broadcasters and players to sports bracelets that say “One Love”. The German team covered their mouths as their official photo was taken.

Sajjan’s office said he could not be reached for comment on Thursday as he was flying back to Canada.

Labor Secretary Seamus O’Regan, who is gay, said he felt divided over Qatar’s hosting role.

“I’ll be honest, it’s very contradictory. I cheer for my team; I cheer for my country and (want) only the best. But I’m telling you, it’s quite difficult,” he said

O’Regan said he could not speak for Sajjan but noted the government had raised concerns about Qatar before the games had started.

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

Click here to play the video: 'Canada regroups after losing opening match to Belgium at FIFA World Cup'

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

The NDP had called for a diplomatic boycott of the tournament.

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

“This government has shown once again that it doesn’t really care about human rights.”

On Monday, MPs passed a unanimous motion condemning FIFA for threatening to fine players who wore the One Love armbands. The motion argued that “international sports federations have a moral obligation to support players and fans to highlight the fight for equality against homophobia, transphobia and all forms of discrimination in sport.”

Captains of several European countries scrapped plans to wear a One Love armband after FIFA, football’s governing body, warned they could face sanctions on the pitch.

According to media reports from Qatar, some fans in rainbow attire were denied entry to the stadiums.

This month, Amnesty International chastised Soccer Canada for its “deafening silence” towards the thousands of workers, mostly from South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa, who “were subjected to labor abuse, abysmal wages and other exploitation”.

Soccer Canada last month released a statement in support of ongoing reforms but avoided criticizing the emirate.

Amnesty noted that peer groups from the UK, US, France and the Netherlands all backed calls for a compensation fund for migrant workers who were mistreated during Qatar’s preparations for the Games.

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The Conservatives did not comment directly on Sajjan’s actions. Instead, MP Michael Chong said his party would prefer the World Cup to be hosted by countries with better reputations, such as an offer by Ukraine to co-host the 2030 tournament with Spain and Portugal.

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

The Bloc Quebecois had repeated the NDP’s call for a diplomatic boycott and lamented Sajjan’s presence in Qatar. “Canada has no excuse to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses,” MP Martin Champoux tweeted in French on Monday.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Liberals urged the Harper administration to address the issue of human rights in China.

© 2022 The Canadian Press


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