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

Minister of International Development Harjit Sajjan faces criticism from the opposition because he did not 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 when we are in countries where we know human rights abuses are taking place, we have no moral standing,” said NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson.

Sajjan attended the World Cup on behalf of the Trudeau government, where Canada’s men’s team is competing for the first time in years. He met with the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and local officials.

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

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

Sajjan’s office said he was not available for comment Thursday as he flew back to Canada.

Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan, who is gay, said he was divided over the Qatar organisation.

“I’ll be honest, it’s very confrontational. I’m rooting for my team; I’m rooting for my country and (I want) nothing but the best. But I will tell you that it is a little difficult, ”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 discontent,” he said.


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

Canada regroups after opening match loss to Belgium at FIFA World Cup


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

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“This is talking out of both sides of your mouth, with this government,” McPherson said.

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

On Monday, parliamentarians passed a unanimous motion condemning FIFA for threatening to penalize players who wear the “One Love” armbands. The motion argued that “international sports governing bodies 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 from several European countries have scrapped plans to wear a “One Love” armband after soccer’s governing body FIFA warned they would face on-pitch sanctions.

Qatari media reports also said that some fans wearing rainbow outfits were denied entry to the stadiums.

This month, Amnesty International chastised Soccer Canada for its “deafening silence” about the thousands of workers, predominantly from South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa, who “have been subjected to labor abuses, abysmally low wages and other forms of exploitation”.

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

Amnesty noted that counterpart federations from Britain, the US, France and the Netherlands have backed calls for a compensation fund for migrant workers who were mistreated while preparing Qatar for the games.

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

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“Conservatives condemn in the strongest terms 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 echoed the NDP’s call for a diplomatic boycott and lamented Sajjan’s attendance at Qatar. “Canada has no excuse for turning a blind eye to human rights abuses,” Martin Champoux MP tweeted in French on Monday.

During the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, liberals urged the Harper government to raise the issue of human rights in China.

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