COLUMN: Canada must play a strong role in upholding human rights

Foreign policy should include holding governments accountable for their actions.

Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger, was jailed and lashed for expressing his viewpoints. His wife and children, who live in Canada, are calling for his release.

The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion has talked about Badawi with the Saudi minister. However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated that calling the government of Saudi Arabia is not in his “immediate plans.”

But every delay and hesitation means that an innocent individual is locked up for exercising his freedom of expression.   The government should not repeat the mistakes that were made in a previous case involving Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy. He was released just a few months ago from an Egyptian jail, where he was detained for more than a year.

Canada’s foreign policy should include holding governments accountable for their actions and ensuring that human rights take precedence over trade deals. Building a world of tolerance includes ensuring that people have the right to freedom of expression.

Last January, Badawi was lashed. He has been detained since 2012 as part of a 10-year jail sentence. His wife and young children are suffering every day that he is away from them and in prison for simply exercising his rights. The European Parliament and Quebec government have strongly condemned Badawi’s detention and called for his release.

Elected MPs expressed themselves with great conviction on this case prior to the election. I hope that this commitment is continued and honoured. The prime minister should use his diplomatic influence to urge the Saudi leadership to address this issue.

Canada has traditionally played a role on the international stage in advocating for human rights and it should continue to do this in a bold manner. Today, many of the global challenges we face are rooted in intolerance and suppression of rights and liberties. If Canada’s foreign policy objectives are to address the underlying issues, then it will need to take a multifaceted approach which involves stronger diplomatic dialogue.

Badawi’s family is residing in Quebec and the Quebec premier has advocated for him. Other provincial governments, including our own, should also lend their voices by passing motions, as was done in the National Assembly of Quebec, to show their support.

While the foreign minister’s talk with the Saudi foreign minister is a step in the right direction, it has not yielded any results so far.

To show your support and sign the petition, visit: http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1770&ea.campaign.id=32768.

Japreet Lehal is a Simon Fraser University graduate pursing a law degree. He writes regularly for The Leader.

 

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