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CTC letter to South African High Commission (Ottawa) regarding Dalai Lama visa denial

September 05, 2014

September 5, 2014


His Excellency Membathisi Mdladlana
South African High Commissioner to Canada
South African High Commission

15 Sussex Drive

Ottawa, ON  K1M 1M8


Your Excellency,


The story of South Africa’s struggle for freedom, democracy, and human rights has been an inspiration for millions of people around the world.  In fact, many Canadians marched in support of your struggle and celebrated with you when the system of apartheid was dismantled and Nelson Mandela was released from prison.  When Mandela and DeKlerk were honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, it was an exhilarating symbol that a better world is indeed possible.


I was therefore deeply disturbed after learning this week that your government has refused an entry visa to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, himself a Nobel Laureate.  For friends and supporters of the Canada Tibet Committee – and I believe for many Canadians - the news came as a stark reminder of how far South Africa has fallen from the pedestal of honour it had once claimed.


South Africa’s freedom struggle would not have succeeded without dedicated support from the international community.  Your Excellency, the Tibetan people have also faced a decades-long struggle against formidable power.  As South Africans once did, the Tibetan people now rely on the solidarity of others to keep hope alive and they derive strength in the knowledge that they do not struggle alone.  


Mandela himself famously declared that, “…to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”.  In this light, we believe that South Africa should exercise its sovereignty not by denying a visa to the Dalai Lama, but by granting it.  Welcoming a Nobel Laureate and advocate of non-violent struggle to your country would show the world that South Africa has indeed become the symbol of justice we once believed it to be.


Carole Samdup, Executive Director

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