FIFA World Cup: Qatar faces increased human rights scrutiny as Sajjan returns – National

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan has been criticized by the opposition for failing to make a public statement on human rights during his visit to Qatar for the World Cup.

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

Sajjan attended the World Cup on behalf of the Trudeau administration, which saw the Canadian men’s team rejoin for the first time in years. He met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and local officials.

Yet Sajjan’s social media posts make no mention of the host country’s documented mistreatment of migrant workers, nor of the emirate’s anti-LGBTQ policies.

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Those concerns have led some broadcasters and players to wear sports armbands that say “One Love.” The German team covered their mouths when their official photo was taken.

Sajjan’s office said he was unavailable for comment Thursday because he was flying back to Canada.

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

“I’ll be honest, it’s very contradictory. I encourage my team; I applaud my country and (want) nothing but the best. But I’ll tell you it’s kind of hard,’ he said

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

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


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

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“This speaks from both sides of your mouth, with this administration,” McPherson said.

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

On Monday, MPs passed a unanimous motion condemning FIFA for threatening to penalize players wearing the ‘One Love’ armbands. The motion argued that “international sports governing bodies have a moral obligation to support players and fans in emphasizing the fight for equality against homophobia, transphobia and all forms of discrimination in sport.”

Captains from several European countries scrapped plans to wear a ‘One Love’ armband after FIFA, football’s governing body, warned they would face on-field penalties.

Media reports from Qatar also said that some fans wearing rainbow clothing were denied entry to the stadiums.

This month, Amnesty International Soccer criticized Canada for its “deafening silence” about the thousands of workers, mostly from South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa, who have been “victims of labor abuse, abysmal wages and other forms of exploitation”.

Soccer Canada issued a statement last month in support of ongoing reforms, but steered clear of criticism of the emirate.

Amnesty noted that fellow federations from Britain, the US, France and the Netherlands all supported the call for a compensation fund for migrant workers who were mistreated during Qatar’s preparation for the Games.

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The Conservatives had no direct comment 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 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 are ready to work with our democratic allies to support human rights,” Chong wrote in a statement.

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

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

& copy 2022 The Canadian Press

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