Harper scrubs Sri Lanka visit over human rights violations

Canada's prime minister will not be among the leaders at this year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo.

Harper to boycott, but parliamentary secretary Deepak Obhrai will be at meetings in Colombo

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not be among the leaders at this year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. The Canadian prime minister is boycotting the meeting because of concerns over Sri Lanka's human rights record. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Canada's prime minister will not be among the leaders at this year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the SriLankan capital of Colombo.

Stephen Harper said today that he will boycott the summit because of deteriorating human rights conditions in Sri Lanka.

Harper told a media briefing in Bali (the island) where he's attending the Asia Pacific leader's summit that Canada is deeply concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka.

He said the absence of accountability for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards both during and after the civil war is unacceptable.

Harper pointed to the impeachment this year of the Sri Lankan Chief Justice, along with reports of judicial killings, the intimidation of political leaders and journalists, and the harassment of minorities.

"It is clear that the Sri Lankan government has failed to uphold the Commonwealth's core values, which are cherished by Canadians," he said.

The prime minister said the Commonwealth must defend the basic principles of freedom, democracy, and respect for human dignity in order to remain relevant.

He also noted he has asked Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to review Canada's significant financial contributions to Commonwealth programs.

Harper said Baird's parliamentary secretary, Deepak Obhrai, would represent Canada at the Colombo meeting.

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