Canada should boy­cott China games

Edmonton Sun - - COMMENT - Mark TOWHEY

Canada has fi­nally or­dered its sol­diers to China.

But, not to rescue two Cana­di­ans be­ing held hostage by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

In­stead, about 170 Cana­dian Armed Forces mem­bers are be­ing de­ployed to the dark heart of the com­mu­nist em­pire to par­tic­i­pate in a “mil­i­tary Olympics” from Oct. 15-30. Their mis­sion: es­tab­lish good­will with the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army and other in­ter­na­tional armed forces. Good luck with that.

It’s a laud­able goal. But it’s not the right goal right now.

As long as China con­tin­ues to hold two in­no­cent Cana­dian cit­i­zens in prison, Canada must stop pre­tend­ing it’s “business as usual” be­tween our two na­tions. Michael Spa­vor and Michael Kovrig have been held in a Chi­nese prison, with­out ap­pro­pri­ate ac­cess to Cana­dian con­sular ser­vices, since Dec. 10, 2018. Reports say they’ve been held in soli­tary con­fine­ment with­out ac­cess to the out­doors, un­der 24/7 il­lu­mi­na­tion and sub­jected to hours of in­ter­ro­ga­tion each day.

That is patently un­ac­cept­able.

This is not the time to be mak­ing nice with China, no mat­ter that these games have a long his­tory. Founded in 1948 to pro­mote “friend­ship through sport,” the In­ter­na­tional Mil­i­tary Sports Coun­cil (CISM) was at first a Euro­pean ini­tia­tive. Over the decades since, it’s grown to in­clude 139 mem­ber coun­tries around the world. The first mod­ern Mil­i­tary World Games were held in 1995, and have oc­curred ev­ery four years since.

The 7th World Mil­i­tary Sum­mer Games in Wuhan, China will see more than 6,000 mil­i­tary ath­letes from around the world com­pete in events rang­ing from tra­di­tional ath­letic sports such as archery, fenc­ing, bas­ket­ball and soc­cer to more mil­i­tary sports such as mil­i­tary pen­tathlon, parachut­ing, ori­en­teer­ing and shoot­ing.

The games pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for mil­i­tary ath­letes from di­verse armies to com­pete in friendly games hosted in a dif­fer­ent in­ter­na­tional city each year. This year, Canada is send­ing 114 mil­i­tary ath­letes and 57 coaches and sup­port staff. It’s a great perk and a mo­ti­va­tor for our troops. But, this year they shouldn’t be there.

It can be ar­gued am­a­teur sport­ing events such as the Olympics shouldn’t be a venue for global pol­i­tics. But, this is not am­a­teur sport. Canada’s mil­i­tary is a tool of gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary ac­tion is an ex­ten­sion of diplo­macy. Our troops know this. They also know the lives of two Cana­dian cit­i­zens are more im­por­tant than a friendly sports meet in a hos­tile coun­try.

Make no mis­take about it, China is a hos­tile coun­try. They’re playing for keeps in this war of wills against Canada. And they’re will­ing. They view our gov­ern­ment as naive — the official spokesper­son for China’s for­eign min­istry lit­er­ally said so. Our “sunny ways” gov­ern­ment has done ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to prove them right.

It’s time Ot­tawa rec­og­nizes that things have changed. China is not our friend. They cer­tainly have not been friendly.

The Com­mu­nist Party of China has branded these mil­i­tary games un­der a ban­ner of “Mil­i­tary Glory World Peace.” But, there’s noth­ing glo­ri­ous or peace­ful in the be­hav­iour of China’s back­ward and un­so­phis­ti­cated gov­ern­ment.

Canada should not lend it any cred­i­bil­ity. Bring our troops home.

File PHOTO

Should Canada be send­ing mil­i­tary per­son­nel to China to com­pete in In­ter­na­tional Mil­i­tary Sports Coun­cil events?

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