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What the Tibetan people and the PRC can learn from Canada?

posted Sep 7, 2011, 8:04 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Sep 15, 2011, 12:51 PM ]
By Tenzing Jigme, York University, Toronto.

The rich history and diversity of Canada has a lot to offer both the Chinese government and the Tibetan people. Two issues stand out relating to the Aboriginal people and the Quebecois. Both these groups have gained an extraordinary degree of self-governance, though still imperfect. Every democratic country is a work in progress. It is a dream for Tibetans and other ethnic groups in China to achieve even an extra inch of that thing called “genuine” self-government.

The achievement in Canada has come about due to openness, and the ability to strike a fine balance amongst the diverse aims of all parties involved in a constructive dialogue (not like the 9 round of dialogue between the Tibetan exile government and the PRC.) It is this Canadian democratic exercise that might have led some Chinese officials and scholars take a keen interest in the Canadian system, especially seen in some of their official/unofficial visits to Canada. These visits as well as academic exchanges have made me wonder whether there has been an exploration of the potential, among more sympathetic Tibetan cause experts and students, to look at the Canadian system of Federalism, Multiculturalism and First Nations self-governance as a future path to Tibet. The only comment I came across was by the Dalai Lama when His Holiness received the key to the City of Toronto during his visit in 2010. In his acceptance speech, HH joked that now that he got the key to the city [country], he can study the economic and the political system of Canada.

For the Tibetan people who are seeking self-governance, a lot can be learned from the experience of Aboriginal people and the people of Quebec. In the case of Quebec, the Quite Revolution, ushered in an intense change in characterized by the rapid and effective secularization of society, the creation of a welfare state and a resurgence of nationalism as seen in re-alignment of politics into federalist and separatist factions.

The aboriginal people were also able to push for self-government through social and political movements across Canada. The broader change was realized through the ability of the state to listen to grievance of its people. One example was the Royal Commission of the Aboriginal People whereby the State exercised its democratic values by listening to aboriginals and re-visiting the colonial history seen through various injustices and policies towards the Aboriginal people.

Only by the ability to listen carefully to its people and implement changes accordingly, will China to be a great nation it strives to be. Only economic and political power will not gain the trust and respect of its people, (not sure at times, whether the PRC give any damn about trust and respect of its people) especially the Tibetan, Uighurs and the Mongols who have been marginalized in social, economic, political and cultural sphere.

The recent statement of the Lobsang Sangay, the Exile Prime Minister of Tibet, about opening a Policy Institute relating to development inside Tibet should look at Canadian example of managing diversity. A further recommendation to every graduate and undergraduate Tibetan students as well as experts is to build an informal policy network through various means (e.g. social media and conferences).One way is by sharing your research interest and foster partnership in various forms. You never know how much your ideas are worth unless you start speaking about it. In this aspect I am quiet interested to build an informal structure so check out and contribute your ideas to my blog-
Originally published at Tibet Knowledge on September 5, 2011:

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