Canada suspends Commonwealth funding

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 05:39

Ottawa: Canada`s government has announced the suspension of funding to the Commonwealth over rotating chair Sri Lanka`s alleged rights abuses.

While Sri Lanka remains chair of the 53-member bloc, Canada`s Can$10 million (USD 9 million) annual contribution to the Commonwealth Secretariat will instead go for two years toward combating the practise of child, early and forced marriage.

"As host of the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and current Chair in Office, Sri Lanka has a duty to take meaningful action on human rights, political reconciliation and accountability. However, Sri Lanka has failed to realise progress on any of these issues," said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, yesterday.
"Canada believes that if the Commonwealth is to remain relevant, it must stand in defence of the basic principles of freedom, democracy and respect for human dignity, which are the very foundations upon which the Commonwealth was built," he said.

Thus, "we can no longer justify providing additional funding to an organisation that turns a blind eye to human rights abuses, anti-democratic behaviour and religious intolerance in its member states."
The withdrawal of funding comes after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, along with the leaders of India and Mauritius, boycotted a Commonwealth leaders summit hosted by Sri Lanka last November.

Canada`s foreign minister at the time said the decision to allow Colombo to stage such as a gathering was akin to "accommodating evil."

Sri Lanka has faced international pressure over accusations of war crimes during the bloody finale to its civil war in 2009, in which the UN says as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians may have been killed. Colombo has denied the accusations.

The Commonwealth Secretariat is responsible for facilitating cooperation between member states, organising meetings, and advising on policy development.


First Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 05:39

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