Ottawa, Canada — In an interview with The Globe and Mail on November 21st in Ottawa, the democratically elected leader of the Tibetan people, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay urged that Canada could be a strong supporter of his people's pursuit of human rights amid a global rise in nationalism.
"Globally, you can see there is a decline of internationalism and liberalism compared to the 1990s, and there is an increase of nationalism and extremism around the world. So you can clearly see from Brexit, not just Trump, actually – the President of Philippines, and [Japanese Prime Minister] Shinzo Abe, even Israel – it's a global trend."
Sikyong says Tibet sees Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government as an obvious partner in the 'struggle' for freedom in the region. Tibet has been under Chinese control since the 1950s, when its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was driven out by invading forces.
"As for human rights and basic freedom, we [Tibetans] are more on the internationalism and liberal side."
Sikyong is in Ottawa this week meeting with parliamentarians for the first time since the Liberals came to power last year. He is seeking Canada's support for Tibet's pursuit of autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution, known as the 'middle-way approach.' The meetings come as Ottawa seeks closer ties with China, including exploratory talks on a free-trade deal.
"The U.S. government has come out in support of the middle-way approach," said Sikyong, who has been the Tibetan political leader since 2011. "It would be nice and very appreciated if the Canadian government also supported the middle-way approach."
He also suggested Canada share with China its experience dealing with its own minority issues, such as the Quebec referendum of 1995, as a way to start a conversation on Tibet. "I think Canada can proudly share its experience on how to solve minority issues, Quebec could be a good reference as far as the Canadian government is concerned."
He said he would also welcome a commitment from the federal government to resettle additional Tibetan refugees from India. More than 900 Tibetans have arrived in Canada since 2013 as part of the previous government's commitment to resettle 1,000 members of the minority group. The remaining refugees are set to arrive by the end of January.
The Sikyong's trip to Canada also includes meetings with members of the all-party Parliamentary Friends of Tibet in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 22, 2016.