For Immediate Release
Montreal torch relay coincides with International Human Rights Day
(Montreal, 10 December 2009) – The Canada Tibet Committee (CTC) finds it’s fitting that Canadians will honour International Human Rights Day on the day that we also celebrate the Olympic torch relay passing through Montreal.
“Today’s leg of the relay is an opportunity for Canadians to reflect upon the historical symbolism of the Olympic flame and to remember those who do not enjoy the rights and freedoms that the founders of the Games had hoped would be fostered by this global event,” said CTC executive director Dermod Travis today.
International Human Rights Day comes a week after Prime Minister Harper held meetings with Chinese rulers in Beijing, including President Hu Jintao. China’s human rights record was a topic of discussion during meetings between the two leaders. China hosted the 2008 Games despite failing to honour commitments that it had made to the IOC. Observers believe that human rights have deteriorated in China since the closing ceremony.
Founded in 1894, the Olympic Games had been meant to encourage the “establishment of a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” Principles to the Olympic Charter include “that the practice of sport is a human right to be celebrated without discrimination in regards to a country or a person on the grounds of race, religion, politics, or gender.”
Elie Ducommun, Fredéric Passy and Fredéric Bajer, three of the Games’ founders, went on to win Nobel Peace prizes.
“These men did not use asterisks in 1894 to exempt some countries from some principles; and they did not believe that the Olympic Charter could be interpreted differently by different nations because of ‘differing histories or national conditions’,” said Travis.
The CTC hopes that as each torch bearer carries the flame today that they will do so with it held a little higher in honour of International Human Rights Day; to honour women in Saudi Arabia who are barred from competing in the Games by Saudi rulers; to honour Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a Tibetan monk sentenced to life imprisonment in China in 2005; and to honour Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen imprisoned in China in 2008 for producing the documentary film 'Leaving Fear Behind'.
At the 2007 Public Talk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, former Olympic gold medalist Mark Tewksbury noted: “The pursuit of freedom, the quest for human rights does not rest on the legs of a lone runner, but on a team, passing a baton from one to the other and sometimes even from one generation to the next. The finish line is not a 10 second dash down the track.”
The Canada Tibet Committee is an independent non-governmental organization of Tibetans and non-Tibetans living in Canada, who are concerned about the continuing human rights violations and lack of democratic freedom in Tibet.
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For more information:
Dermod Travis, Executive Director