FIFA World Cup: Ottawa sent delegations to ‘disappointing’ Qatar, says LGBTQ2 group – National

An LGBT rights group said Ottawa’s decision to send government officials to Qatar for the soccer World Cup was “extremely disappointing” because human rights issues continue to plague the soccer tournament.

International Development Secretary Harjit Sajan and MP Stephen Ellis will be in the Arab nation until Wednesday for the event, which will see Canada’s men’s team participate for the first time in 36 years.

There has been debate over whether delegates from Ottawa should attend the World Cup, given the country’s reported human rights abuses and Canada’s decision to diplomatically boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics over China’s human rights record.

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Helen Kennedy, executive director at Egale, a Canadian LGBTQ2 community advocacy group, said the move was “short-sighted,” but there was an opportunity for the government to take a strong stance in Qatar.

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“It’s very frustrating, and I think short-sighted. I would definitely like to see our Canadian government speak out forcefully about the human rights abuses that are happening in that country, especially now that the world is watching Qatar,” she told Global News.

“What better opportunity and time to let the world know that we do not concur with any of their human rights abuses, specifically around LGBT people.”

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On Sunday, Ottawa announced that it would send Sagan and Ellis to Qatar for three days to represent the Canadian government. The news came after Heritage Canada told Global News last month that Ottawa had “no plan” to then send a dignitary, and after Liberal MPs gave no direct answers on the issue in the House of Commons last week.

Ottawa said Sagan and Ellis will cheer for the men’s team, and they will also participate in a “tri-sports diplomatic event” with US Secretary of State Anthony J. Sajjan will also meet with Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, to discuss humanitarian aid and international development.

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The World Cup in Qatar has been the subject of controversy since FIFA chose it as host 12 years ago. Qatar faced skepticism about how it had persuaded FIFA to vote for the country. Twenty-one of the 24 men on FIFA’s executive committee who voted to host the World Cup in 2010 have been found guilty of criminal or ethical issues, acquitted at trial or implicated in wrongdoing.

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Allegations of mistreatment of migrant workers building World Cup infrastructure have been blighted by human rights groups for years. Qatar’s ruling emir described the criticism as an “unprecedented campaign” targeting the first Arab country to host the tournament. Qatar has repeatedly backtracked, insisting it has improved protections for migrant workers and claiming the criticisms are outdated.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have called on participating countries to support calls by FIFA and Qatar to create a $440 million compensation fund to compensate workers and improve worker protections.

Alasdair Bell, FIFA’s deputy general secretary, said the organization was open to talks on compensation and compensation. But in an interview with AFP published on November 2, Qatar’s labor minister rejected those calls, saying the government had already distributed millions of unpaid wages. Canada’s Sports Minister, Pascale St-Onge, told Global News in a statement last month that Ottawa joins calls for “transparency and robust action” to protect migrant workers.

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“This World Cup was built on the shoulders of people who have suffered massive and severe harm, and we would like and expect Canada to raise these serious human rights concerns that are being discussed and raised globally vigorously with the Government of Qatar,” he said. Kitty Niveapande, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada.

In the run-up to the World Cup, athletes have also expressed concern about the safety of LGBTQ2 fans in Qatar, given that same-sex practices are illegal in the conservative Islamic country. Human Rights Watch said on October 24 that Qatar had pledged that LGTBQ2 fans would not be subject to arrest, but that Qatari security forces arbitrarily arrested and ill-treated LGBT Qataris in September. Qatar has rejected these accusations.

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Ottawa has warned Canadian fans in Qatar to “dress modestly” and “act with caution” in light of the laws in force there. In a tweet on Oct. 28St-Onge said the safety of Canadians attending the World Cup must be ensured.

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In a statement sent to Global News Sunday night, a spokesperson for Sajjan said that “promoting human rights is an integral part of Canada’s foreign policy” and “we will continue to engage Qatar bilaterally on key Canadian priorities, including human rights.”

Kennedy hopes the delegation will find time to listen to marginalized communities about their experiences of living in Qatar.

“They need to know and consult with community members who have been directly affected by violence, harassment, and legislation criminalizing their actual identities,” she said.

“If they don’t have the language, if they don’t have the history, if they don’t have knowledge of the everyday experiences of members of the LGBTI community, they can’t express or advocate on anyone’s behalf.”

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Nivyapandi also hopes the dignitaries will speak to Canada Football. Amnesty International Canada has criticized the sport’s national governing body for its “sheer silence” regarding cases in Qatar. Late last month, Soccer Canada issued a statement saying it “supports the continued pursuit of further progress on worker rights and inclusiveness” around the World Cup in Qatar.

“Canada is the next co-host with the United States and Mexico for the World Cup, (they are) in a position to push hard for respect for human rights after the World Cup,” she said.

“Canada has built a reputation as a country that prioritizes human rights, so one would expect that, of all teams, Team Canada would be among the first to stand in solidarity and support migrant workers.”

World Cup teams will not wear the rainbow armband

Several World Cup teams backtracked on plans for their captains to wear armbands seen as a rebuke to Qatar’s human rights record after FIFA warned of a field penalty on Monday.

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FIFA warned players just hours before kick-off that they would immediately receive yellow cards, which could lead to fines. Offers are a violation of the FIFA rules. FIFA also banned the Belgian national team from wearing their own jersey away from home during the World Cup, as the word “Love” appeared on the collar and a rainbow ornament. Belgium will face Canada on Wednesday.

However, players representing England and Iran showed some form of protest on Monday, with England players taking a knee before the start of the match. The Iranian players did not sing the national anthem, in an apparent show of solidarity with anti-government protesters in their country amid discontent over their reluctance to speak out.

England’s Harry Maguire injured his knee prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between England and Iran at Khalifa International Stadium on November 21 in Doha, Qatar.

Alex Buntling/The FA via Getty Images

It is not clear whether the Canada players planned any form of protest. Football Canada directed Global News to its October statement when asked Monday.

A government official, speaking in the background, told Global News last month that it was up to the players and Canada Soccer to decide whether to take any similar measures.

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With files from Reuters and the Associated Press

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