Why is Canada ignoring human rights abuses in Kashmir?

Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War co-chair Doug Brown recently had published an op-ed in the Hamilton Spectator.

Why is Canada ignoring human rights abuses in Kashmir?

Last Friday was Kashmir Solidarity Day on which peace activists reassert their support for the self-determination of the people of Kashmir, a region long in dispute between India and Pakistan.

Canadians should be proud of the fact that it was a Canadian – General Andrew McNaughton – who sat as UN Security Council President on Dec. 22, 1949, and introduced a resolution in which the United Nations voted to authorize a referendum among the people of Kashmir about their political future. That was the right and democratic thing to do. Regrettably, India never complied.

But we hear little today about Kashmir from the Trudeau government. In fact, Canada’s present-day selective approach to defending human rights is troubling.

Ottawa is quick to accuse China or Venezuela for alleged human rights abuses but has maintained a stunning silence in the case of India’s well-documented human rights abuses in Kashmir. Kashmiris have been consistently and systematically denied their rights for decades.

With Minister Marc Garneau’s recent appointment as foreign minister, Canada has an opportunity to rectify this wrong in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Last November, the Liberal government responded to three petitions in regard to this situation. One was sponsored by Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi, another by NDP MP Scott Duvall, and the third by Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu.

These were signed by 3500 Canadian residents. The government response was disappointing saying the Canadian government was monitoring the situation, that many restrictions had been lifted, but Canada “looks forward to restoration of normalcy and resumption of inclusive political dialogue in Jammu and Kashmir.” (Read response.)

This was the first time that Indian-occupied Kashmir had been mentioned in the Canadian parliament in regard to the military occupation and human rights violations since the early part of this century and there wasn’t a word about General McNaughton’s historic resolution which today remains the basis to the solution of this 73-year-old dispute.

Despite thousands of letters sent to the Canadian government and opposition parties, there has been virtual silence.

Canada should end its silence in the face of these well-documented human rights abuses in Kashmir and hold India to account.

Doug Brown is co-chair of the Hamilton Coalition to Stop The War, co-host of the CFMU.ca radio show, “Unusual Sources”, and a resident of Burlington.

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