3 min

The Dalai Lama and the Conservative Party

Suki Lee takes issue with the doormat-dharma of the tibetian leader

Credit: Capital Xtra files

A short while ago, I listened to the Dalai Lama’s talk at the Ottawa Congress Centre, along with several thousand people. The objective of his Ottawa visit, as indicated by the Canada Tibet Committee, was to promote the opening of negotiations between representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

During his talk, he delved into Buddhist dharma in his discussion of human value and meaningful existence. The Dalai Lama also spoke about events that matter to us today: “9/11 didn’t happen suddenly. Hatred goes through generations without a break due to negligence and suppression. We must act now, because the future depends on it. We have the possibility of changing today. The initiative must come from individuals and community. All leaders have a responsibility to share and interact… The solution is dialogue. The spirit of dialogue must start between people…”

Throughout his talk, the Dalai Lama did not refer to Tibet or China. This was disappointing given that brokering a dialogue was the stated purpose of his visit to Canada. While the majority of people present knew of China’s occupation of Tibet and the cultural genocide perpetrated against this peaceful Buddhist country, the rest of his audience was left to read his message between the lines. With a mention of Tibet – even as simple as one sentence in length – the Dalai Lama could have mobilized the several thousand people who were listening to his talk.

In the end, I left frustrated. As the leader of the Tibetan government in exile, it was the Dalai Lama’s duty to refer to the plight of his people, especially given that he is Tibet’s only hope of achieving freedom from China. After his death, China will swallow Tibet whole and spit out the bones. Of course the Dalai Lama was caught in a quagmire, gagged by the very same Canadian officials who smiled and shook hands with him. Nevertheless, I had hoped that he would have taken the middle way through this impasse.

If lesbians and gays coped with our situation in the same manner that the Dalai Lama is dealing with the freedom of his people, homosexuality would still be illegal in Canada in the 21st century. Tibet needs the Dalai Lama to speak out. It is the only way that change can happen.

As a politicized group, LGBT people are accustomed to making their voices heard in Canada. Speaking out is particularly crucial now that Canadians are facing a powerful new Conservative party that holds extreme views against same-sex marriage, and that has unabashedly threatened to take away rights that we have long fought for. The party may have lost the recent election, but they aren’t going away.

The closest that the Dalai Lama ever came to saying the word China was when he described that country’s actions: “Some people harm, cheat and abuse others for their own benefit. That’s negative… Anger is blind… All human activities should be honest and truthful.”

The Dalai Lama’s description of China is frighteningly close to the description of the Conservative Party, which outed its prejudicial intentions during the recent election. Not only would they relegate same-sex unions to a second class standing, but they would also remove “sexual orientation” from laws protecting gay and lesbian people from hate propaganda. Here is a party that campaigned on the platform of taking away rights rather than conferring them. The Conservative Party is clearly socially conservative. It is a veritable wolf in sheep’s clothing, having taken over the name of the Conservative Party, while embracing the same vicious homophobia as the old Reform/Canadian Alliance Party.

Because the Dalai Lama did not articulate his message, it could not be heard. People were influenced by his talk on that day. The next day, the majority of them went on with their daily lives. And several months later, most have forgotten what he said. Tibet’s unjust fate is most likely a faint blip on their consciousness.

Conversely, the Conservative Party has verbalized several messages. The party aggressively opposes equality for LGBT persons. It is actively working to maintain a discriminatory definition of marriage, making it “the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.”

This is a clear message that we must act upon. Unlike Tibetans, lesbians and gays across Canada have a voice and we should use it. The Conservatives may have lost the recent election, but we must ensure that in the future, the powerful LGBT vote nationwide is used to elect candidates into parliament who support equality.