A former Liberal cabinet minister in Ottawa, David Kilgour, is leading a charge that Canada should boycott next year’s Olympic Games in Bejing because of China’s record of human rights violations.

Kilgour is not the only one. In Washington several U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation calling for a boycott of the games and a British Conservative member of the European Parliament called on Britain to also pull out, saying: « The civilized world must seriously consider shunning China. »

Must it? It seems to me that previous boycotts, President Carter’s refusal to go to the Russian Games in 1980, fell most heavily on the athletes themselves. They are the ones who pay the price for a boycott. Should Canada prohibit its athletes, now in training, from going to Bejing next summer?

On the other hand, should Canada treat these games the same way we would as if they were in the United States or Britain and pay no heed to the way China treats some minorities like the practitioners of Falun Gong, a peaceful peace group that preaches compassion and tolerance?

How do we protest China’s continuing human rights violations without unduly penalizing our athletes?



  1. 1
    Barbara Says:

    The perfect Canadian question. How do you achieve moral success without sacrifice?

    No, Canada should attend the Olympics in Beijing — bringing its own food, I hope! Then it should accept the fact it will be used, along with all those other countries attending, to justify the way China treats its dissenters and minorities. And Canada will whine. And nothing will change.

    This is the time to put pressure on Beijing, make it aware that others are watching and critiquing. If you have a moral voice in the world, then you should use it or realize that, in the end, you are just a bag of wind.

    With any luck, when the media crank up their machines and the fireworks go off, the athletes will be able to run, jump, pop pills and wave flags with all the others in what has become a travesty of its original intent.

  2. 2

    I couldn’t agree more, Barbara. China is desperate to make their Olympics a roaring success. So now is the time indeed to use our leverage to force China to shape up on the human rights front or else.

  3. 3
    mklasing Says:

    I agree that Canada should attend the Olympics–China is hosting them but they are not the « Chinese Olympics. » However, I also agree with Barbara that now is the time, with the media coverage world wide for Canada and the US and Britain and others to take a public stand against China’s human rights issues and pressure them as best they can be pressured. Instead of making it a compromise to attend Olympics there, lets make China pay publicly for hosting them while continuing to violate human decency. Remember–China’s economy depends on North American imports and we have the power to pressure them–we just don’t.


  4. 4

    Hi Murphy.

    I had not thought about th huge trade deficit the U.S. is running with China. By using trade as a weapon the Americans could give China a double whammy. Improve their human rights record and improve their products like defective toys.

  5. 5
    Barbara Says:

    By « America », I presume you mean North America. Just try to go shopping in Canadian department stores without purchasing goods made in China. Believe me, I try! It isn’t easy.
    The North American way of life demands low prices, cheap goods for the masses. When I lived in Europe decades ago, it was not a question of how many gidgets you bought at a great bargain, but how you saved up to purchase a few things of quality. It is countercultural these days, but many good things are!

  6. 6

    Yes, Barbara, I include Canada too. Of course the Americans, paradoxically, pay a steep price for cheap goods. Many American jobs are out-sourced to cheap labour markets and U.S. workers suffer.

  7. 7
    jim Says:

    Neil:- Let’s get all the Canadian teams to bring pamphlets to the olympics.The handouts would explain the trials of the Falun Gong. They should be distributed to all the other teams. There should be a note on the back asking the other teams to photostat the pamphlet and distribute them to the attendees at the games. The Chinese wouldn’t dare
    arrest any participants as it would only make matters worse for the authorities, with all the media attention. Light a candle folks and dream on. Jim

  8. 8

    Why the heck not? I agree the Chinese would not dare arrest anybody and the protest would gain world wide publicity and hopefully help the human rights situation in China. Neil

  9. 9
    bernie12 Says:

    The athletes should attend and not be turned into political pawns. China is bein forced to clean up the problem of smog in Beijing by the IOC . But we all (especially the developed world ) must make more progress on the environment.

  10. 10
    John Says:

    Neil, I agree with Barbara that boycutting would have a far greater impact on the Canadian athletes than it would the Chinese government.

    I like Jim’s notion of the pamphlet. In conjunction with that, what if all Canadian athletes carried a red carnation? rose? in the opening ceremonies as a symbol of Canada’s solidarity with those who are being repressed and killed. It would receive extensive television coverage and would be captured forever through videotape and photographs etc. Seems to me this would send a more powerful message to the world than simply being absent and could send the Chinese organizers into an even greater tizzy, especially if Canada extended an invitation for other countries to do the same. (A similar notion would be to wear black ribbons? or armbands? throughout the games).

  11. 11

    Tim – I think you are quite right. It’s difficult to preach to the Chinese government about cleaning up the environment when we are doing so little ourselves.

    Joh – I think wearing the red carnation is a capital idea. Why not send the suggestion to the riding office of your member of parliament or the Speaker of the House, Peter Milliken. As you know, he’s from Kingston.

  12. 12

    Yes, a strong message, a lively presence communicates more emphatically than does absence and I too like the idea of the pamphlets, the red rose, the arm band and hope that John does send this excellent suggestion to Peter Milliken, Speaker of the House, and to the Canadian sports associations that sponsor the athletes. Perhaps a radio show with an open forum on creative ways our athletes can get a message of care and solidarity across? Blogs certainly stir the pot, don’t they!

  13. 13

    Eleanor – blogs sure do stir the pot and it’s great to have you helping to stir.

  14. 14
    Barbara Says:

    I wonder if wearing those red carnations or even a black armband (recalls the Black Power salute by American athletes during a bygone Olympics) will have any impact around the world. Of course, it will assure Canadians back home that they have done the noble deed (with little personal cost). All very self-righteous and all very ineffectual.

  15. 15
    John Says:

    I quite agree that nothing would change from a political perspective, but whether this is to be deemed ineffectual depends on what the original goal was. To expect our athletes to exert political pressure (by their absence) on the Chinese government, while the rest of Canada goes about its merry way importing from China, exporting to China, visiting China, working in China, accepting exorbitant tuition fees from the Chinese etc. etc., makes no sense to me.

    To expect our athletes to bring pressure to bear on a political situation is not realistic. To expect them to bring attention to the situation may be more within the scope of what can be accomplished. Never mind the impact around the world. How many Canadians would be watching the Olympics (and hear a commentator explain the red carnation) who wouldn’t otherwise have a clue who the Falun Gong are or what they’re being put through? If even just one, is that ineffectual?

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