Lhakar on the Hill
*Guest post by the Interns of the 2014 Parliamentary Friends of Tibet Internship Program*
This year the Parliamentary Friends of Tibet (PFT) Internship program saw four new Tibetan interns. It started on May 5, 2014 and in a week’s time, will come to an end (June 20, 2014). Our four awesome interns are Tenzin Tsundue (Toronto) who is working in MP Rob Anders office, Tenzin Woesal (Toronto) who is working in MP David Sweet’s office. MP David Sweet was the past Chair of PFT till today. Tenzin Chogkyi (Toronto) is working in the office of newly elected PFT Chair MP Bernard Trottier and finally Dawa Norbu, (Ottawa) who is a recent new arrival from Arunachal Pradesh, India under the Tibetan Resettlement Project is working in MP Peggy Nash’s office.
Some of the past activities of PFT involves PFT chair MP David Sweet’s meeting with Canada Tibet Committee to discuss Tibet issues and potential involvement of parliamentarians and another meeting between Kaydor Akutsang, Representative for the office of Tibet and PFT members to discuss the relationship between Canadian parliamentarians and the office of Tibet. They also have a Parliamentary Friends of Tibet biannual newsletter. One of the events hosted by PFT during our internship program was the press conference chaired by MP David Sweet to honor the 25 year anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre. We were invited for the press conference and the reception afterwards. Both MP David Sweet and Mr. Cheuk Kwan, Chair, Toronto Association for Democracy in China spoke about the self-immolations taking place inside Tibet and called for more freedom in Tibet, Uighur and the Falun Gong practitioners.
Along with some amazing people, we hosted a Lhakar on the Hill event today. (June 11, 2014) Our event was preceded by the PFT members annual meeting and voting for the new chair. North America Tibetan Member of Parliament Mr. Norbu Tsering la came on behalf of the Central Tibetan Administration to thank the outgoing chair and congratulate the newly elected chair. He and Students for a Free Tibet, Canada, National Director Urgyen Badheytsang came all the way from Toronto to take part in the event. Urgyen la briefed the parliamentarians about some of the political campaigns regarding political prisoners in Tibet, the Confucius Institutes and the importance of our united effort against the crisis in Tibet. He also urged the new Chair MP Bernard Trottier to raise awareness about Khenpo Kartse, Tibetan political prisoner on June 26, 2014, the International Day of Torture.
Tenzin Lobsang Wangkhang, former National Director of Students for a Free Tibet, Canada and also one of the staffs under Senator Consiglio Dinino, who made the PFT internship program possible joined us to brief the parliamentarians on the significance of Lhakar.
We were also joined by the newly formed Ottawa Tibetan Community Association members who came to congratulate and thank the members. Many of their members are the newly arrived Tibetans from Arunachal Pradesh, India under the Tibetan Resettlement Project. They sponsored our event lunch. Everyone was talking about the momos by the end of the day. Sometimes you just need delicious momos to bring members of parliament together to talk on Tibet.
One of the highlights of the event was not only a lot of MPs came and stayed for the entire event, we had a number of staffs from the office of MPs and Senators too. After an amazing lunch and networking with the parliamentarians and their staffs, we called it a day.
Our two main accomplishments for today are 1) the importance of communicating, building and strengthening relationships among the various Tibetan groups and 2) reaching out to parliamentarians from different party groups.
We couldn’t host this Lhakar event just by ourselves given we are all from Toronto and didn’t have the necessary means to do anything we wanted. The Ottawa Tibetan Community members were friendly, supportive and since this was the first Lhakar on the Hill event and they are a new association, they made sure we had all the support we needed. All the Tibetan groups we reached out to, accepted our invitation and played an active role in making sure our messages got across to the parliamentarians and their staffs. We had MPs from the ruling government (Conservatives), the opposition party (NDP) and the Liberals.