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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Dalai Lama plans visit to Quebec to support ethics course

September 1, 2008

Marianne White
Canwest News Service
August 29, 2008

QUEBEC -- A controversial new ethics and religious culture class to
be taught in Quebec schools as of next week is getting a nod from the
Dalai Lama, who will travel to the province next year to show his
enthusiasm for it.

The head of the Canadian branch of the Dalai Lama Foundation said
Friday the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader will pay a two-day visit
to Montreal in October 2009 to meet with teachers and teachers-to-be.

"The Dalai Lama has always championed teaching ethics to children in
the school system and when he learned that Quebec was introducing
this curriculum, he was very happy," said Thubten Samdup, a
Montrealer with Tibetan origins.

Samdup told the Nobel Peace Prize winner about Quebec's new class
during a recent trip to India, where the Tibetan government-in-exile is based.

The mandatory, non-denominational religion and ethics class will be
taught in Quebec's elementary and secondary schools starting next
week. Until now, schools have had three options to chose from: Moral
Education, Catholic Religious and Moral Instruction, and Protestant
Moral and Religious Education.

Students will still learn about the important place of Catholicism
and Protestantism in Quebec's religious heritage, but the new
curriculum also will focus on other religions such as Judaism, Islam,
Hinduism, Buddhism and native spiritualities. For the ethics part of
the course, students will reflect on issues such as responsibility,
tolerance and justice.

The new class sparked a heated debate in the province and a few
hundred parents - mostly Catholics and Protestants - are engaged in a
bitter fight with the province's Education Department to be awarded
the right to exempt their children from the course. They are worried
that if their kids learn about other religions on top of Catholicism
or Protestantism, they will become confused by too many choices.

But this spring, the Quebec Assembly of Catholic Bishops decided to
give the new class a chance and said it is now up to the families and
not to the schools to pass on religious beliefs.

Samdup, a longtime advocate of the new class, convinced the Dalai
Lama to come to Quebec to share his views about ethics and religion.
He said the spiritual leader will not use his visit to promote Buddhism.

"He will emphasis his opinion that anything we can teach our children
when they grow up to become decent human beings and better citizens
is very important."

Samdup said Quebec has taken a very bold step in going ahead with
this course that, he thinks, could become a model for the rest of the country.

"Our world has become so interdependent today that we really have to
know each other, different cultures and traditions, so that we can
live in harmony," he said.

Neither the Quebec Education Department, nor a provincewide coalition
that has been a vocal opponent of the new curriculum, would comment
on the Dalai Lama's position.

Samdup is confident the 73-year-old leader - who had to cancel two
foreign trips after he complained of fatigue this week - will be
healthy enough to make this trip in 2009.

The Dalai Lama's last visit to Montreal dates back to 1993. He
travelled to Ottawa and Toronto last fall.
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