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Olympic Boycott: Federal Government “Will Respect” Athletes’ Decision

OTTAWA – Canada’s new sports minister, Pascale St-Onge, says she respects the decision of Canadian athletes to attend the Beijing Olympics amid calls for some version of a boycott.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Question Period Thursday, St-Onge said she spoke with the Canadian Olympic Committee on Wednesday and that “the [athletes] are still convinced they want to go to the Olympics.

“I fully respect their independence and the decision they make,” she said.

Human rights defenders and opposition politicians have urged the government to withdraw its presence from the upcoming Winter Games hosted by a country with a documented history of human rights violations.

Appeals have grown amid the recent disappearance of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai after she publicly accused Zhang Gaoli, 75, a former deputy prime minister who was a member of the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee in the United States. power, for having sexually assaulted her.

In a statement to last week, a spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said Ottawa was discussing the move with its partners.

US President Joe Biden confirmed in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House that he is considering a diplomatic boycott of the Games, meaning they would refrain from sending government officials but would send always athletes.

Decisions about Olympic participation are made by individual Olympic bodies in countries, although boycotts are usually the result of government pressure. When Canada abstained from the Moscow Olympics in 1980, then Prime Minister Joe Clark expressed his desire for a boycott long before the official vote of what was then known as Canadian Olympic Association.

Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden, who carried the Canadian flag at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, said on Wednesday that the Games had always “shed a bright light on problems around the world.”

“The light is only the first step, in my opinion, and the question, you know, if there is a diplomatic boycott, we’ll leave it to diplomats and leaders to determine. I’m just emphasizing that our athletes, you know, are not diplomacy tools, ”he said.

Van Koeverden said athletes can both compete in a country and oppose abuse there.

“I don’t think that being an athlete, caring about our athletes or encouraging our athletes is mutually exclusive from believing and caring about the Uyghur genocide,” he said.

With a file from Ryan Flanagan and Michael Lee of CTV News


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