Ottawa’s decision to send government officials to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup is “very disappointing” as human rights issues continue to plague the football tournament, says an LGBTQ2 advocacy group.
International Development Secretary Harjit Sajjan and MP Stephen Ellis are still in the Arab nation until Wednesday to attend the event, which will see Canada’s men’s team compete for the first time in 36 years.
There has been debate over whether delegates from Ottawa should attend the World Cup given the reported human rights abuses in the nation and Canada’s decision to diplomatically boycott the Beijing 2022 Olympics over China’s human rights record.
FIFA World Cup 2022 – Canada’s Sajjan takes part in the tournament in Qatar
FIFA World Cup 2022: Canada’s Sajjan takes part in the tournament in Qatar
The move is “short-sighted,” but there is an opportunity for the government to take a strong stance in Qatar, said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale, a Canadian advocacy group on LGBTQ2 people and issues.
“This is very disappointing and, in my opinion, short-sighted. I would definitely like to see our Canadian government speaking out much more about human rights abuses in this country, and especially now that the world is watching Qatar,” she told Global News.
“What better opportunity and time to let the world know that we do not agree with any of their human rights abuses, especially in relation to LGBTI people.”
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On Sunday, Ottawa announced it would send Sajjan and Ellis to Qatar for three days to represent the Canadian government. The news came after Heritage Canada told Global News last month that Ottawa had “no plan” to send a dignitary and after Liberal MPs failed to provide direct answers on the issue in the House of Commons last week.
Sajjan and Ellis will cheer on the men’s team and also take part in “a trilateral sports diplomacy event” with US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Mexico’s Secretary of State Marcelo Ebrard, Ottawa said. Sajjan will also meet with Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, to discuss humanitarian aid and international development.
The World Cup in Qatar has been the subject of controversy since it was named host by FIFA 12 years ago. Qatar has faced skepticism about how it managed to persuade FIFA to vote for the country. Twenty-one of the 24 men on the FIFA Executive Committee who voted to host the 2010 World Cup were, in various ways, convicted, charged, acquitted in court or implicated in misconduct in criminal or ethics cases.
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Allegations of mistreatment of migrant workers in the construction of World Cup infrastructure have been raised by human rights groups for years. The ruling Emir of Qatar has described the criticism as an “unprecedented campaign” aimed at the first Arab nation to host the tournament. Qatar has repeatedly pushed back, insisting it has improved protections for migrant workers and claiming criticism is outdated.
Amnesty International and other human rights groups have called on participating nations to back calls for FIFA and Qatar to set up a $440 million relief fund to compensate workers and improve labor protections.
Alasdair Bell, FIFA Deputy Secretary General, said the organization is open to talks about redress and redress. But in an AFP interview published on November 2, Qatar’s labor minister dismissed those demands, saying the government had already paid out millions of dollars in unpaid wages. Canada’s Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge told Global News in a statement last month that Ottawa joined calls for “transparency and robust measures” to protect migrant workers.
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“This World Cup has been built on the backs of people who have suffered high and extreme harm and we want and expect Canada to address these grave human rights concerns that are being discussed around the world and are being strongly raised with the Government of Qatar,” he said he Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.
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Ahead of the World Cup, athletes also raised concerns about the safety of LGBTQ2 fans in Qatar, as homosexual acts are illegal in the conservative Muslim country. Qatar has vowed that LGTBQ2 fans will not be arrested, but Qatari security forces arbitrarily detained and ill-treated LGBTQ2 Qataris as recently as September, Human Rights Watch said Oct. 24. Qatar has denied these allegations.
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Ottawa has warned Canadian fans in Qatar to “dress conservatively” and “behave discreetly” in light of Qatar’s laws. In a tweet dated Oct. 28St-Onge said the safety of Canadians participating in the World Cup must be ensured.
In a statement sent to Global News on Sunday evening, a spokesman for Sajjan said “promoting human rights is an integral part of Canada’s foreign policy” and “we will continue to engage bilaterally with Qatar on key Canadian priorities, including human rights.” , work together.”
Kennedy hopes the delegation will find time to hear from marginalized communities about their experiences in Qatar.
“They need to know and consult with the community members who are directly affected by the violence, the harassment and legislation that criminalizes their actual identities,” she said.
“If they don’t have the language, if they don’t have the history, if they don’t have the knowledge of the everyday experiences of members of the LGBTI community, they can’t articulate or defend themselves on behalf of anyone.”
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Nivyabandi also hopes the dignitaries will speak to Canada Soccer. Amnesty International Canada has criticized the sport’s national governing body for its “deafening silence” on the problems in Qatar. Late last month, Canada Soccer released a statement saying it “supports the ongoing pursuit of further advances in workers’ rights and inclusion” surrounding the World Cup in Qatar.
“Canada is the next World Cup host alongside the United States and Mexico (and they are) in a position to make a really strong commitment to respect human rights beyond the World Cup,” she said.
“Canada has built a reputation as a country that prioritizes human rights, so one would expect that the Canadian team would be one of the first to show solidarity and support with migrant workers.”
World Cup teams do not wear rainbow armbands
Several World Cup teams withdrew plans for their captains to wear armbands, which were seen as a reprimand for Qatar’s human rights record, after FIFA warned on Monday of punishment on the pitch.
FIFA warned players just hours before kick-off that they would immediately see yellow cards, which could have resulted in fines. The displays violate FIFA rules. FIFA also banned the Belgium team from wearing their away kit during the World Cup because it featured the word “Love” in the collar and rainbow-colored trim. Belgium meets Canada on Wednesday.
However, the players representing England and Iran showed a form of protest on Monday, with England’s players taking a knee before the game started. The Iranian players did not sing the national anthem, in an apparent show of solidarity with the anti-government protesters in their country, amid dissatisfaction with their reluctance to speak out.
It’s unclear if Canada’s players have any form of protest planned. Canada Soccer referred Global News to its October statement when asked Monday.
A government official speaking in the background told Global News last month it was up to the players and Canada Soccer to decide whether to take similar action.
– with files from Reuters and The Associated Press