It is many years ago that LI held a meeting in Canada. Although Canadian involvement in LI goes back to the beginning of the organization in 1947. One of the main observations was that liberalism is under attack in many parts of the world and unfortunately populism and nationalism are on the rise.

It was therefore very good to meet and to unite in our common cause as liberals. After our ExCom Meeting all participants were invited to attend the Convention of Canadian liberals following the ExCom.

INLW had tabled 3 resolutions:

 “Women and Girls and STEM” (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

“Supporting Taiwan’s Defense, Increased Participation in International Affairs and Further
Collaboration with World Democracies” (INLW and DPP)

“The treatment of Uyghur women and condemning the naming of Peng Liyuan as Special
Envoy for the Advancement of Girl’s and Women’s Education” (INLW and DPP).

All resolutions were accepted by vote by the Executive Committee Meeting.

Treasurer Lysbeth van Valkenburg met our Patron Lorna Marsden in Torontoa before the meeting. Unfortunately she was unable to attend the exc. Meeting.

The first evening the welcoming reception was hosted by the Canadian Group of LI in the Sir John Macdonald building.

We were welcomed by Sen. Art Eggleton, president of the Canadian Group of Liberal International and Vice President of the LI Bureau, and LI president Hakima el Haité.
Quite a few of the Canadian parliamentarians were present, Leah Taylor Roy, MP on behalf of the Liberal party Canada Parliamentary Caucus also welcomed all guests but especially the women. As we can see there were quite a few women present.

In Canada about 30% of the MP’s are female and she is trying to get more women interested in politics. It is clear that the number of women worldwide is still far from representative of the population they represent. We hope to see some of our Canadian ladies as new members of INLW.

At the opening of the meeting Francois-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovations, science and industry of Canada, gave us an oversight of the problems at the moment.
“The difference of the things that we find important, we as liberals go for possibilities and are optimistic. The word ‘ a liberal’ is better changed in the discussions to ‘ a person with our values’, we share our values with many people, we want a fair agreement in our relations with a fair partnership in which dignity is leading, let’s not leave anyone behind”.

Hakima el Haité stressed that peace is most important, next to food security, energy security, climate change, AI and digitalization.
The war is visible in all these things. We are at the moment in a world where mistrust is found by many people, populists are often good speakers with so called very simple solutions to difficult problems.
We must defend our system, we are safe-keepers of our values, peace and rights. But we have to make our decisions much more with support of the people it concerns. We also have to commit to the Paris agreement of 2015. We must reduce the inequality in the world, work with a fair agreement and partnership.

This year the Prize for Freedom was awarded to Vladimir Kara-Murza, journalist and opposition leader in Russia who was convicted in April to 25 years imprisonment in Russia. His wife was present during our meeting. She stressed that this prize can help to keep him safe and it shows that we don’t forget our imprisoned friends.

In his nomination letter LI Human Rights Committee member and former Canadian Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler wrote, “Vladimir Kara-Murza gives expression to the very best of what the concept of freedom represents, and whose heroism stands as an abiding example for all those who share a commitment to human rights, democracy, and the advancement of peace.”

“Vladimir Kara-Murza has without sparing himself fought for democracy and human rights in the Russian Federation. He has successfully advocated for targeted Magnitsky sanctions on human rights offenders,” notes Human Rights Committee Chair Astrid Thors.

The question remains what to do against dictators, release of such a prisoner will only be done if the dictator is put under pressure and that is mostly economic. But we also have to get it legally arranged, legally is never important for a dictator. Only self-interest of the country with economic advantage will get political prisoners out.
The war in Russia will continue so we have to get the sanctions working and keep the pressure on.

The LI Human Rights Committee organized a parallel session on organizing from Opposition, Overcoming Political Oppression: Evgenia Kara-Murza the Advocacy Coordinator of Free Russia Foundation and wife of imprisoned Vladimir Kara-Murza after working as an interpreter has joined her husband in advocating for human rights accountability and promoting civil society and democratic change in Russia. She is approaching all people like heads of state to ask for them to keep asking for freedom for Kara-Murza. She believes that keeping the name mentioned is the only way to get him free and save his life as he has already twice been poisoned badly and that has seriously damaged his health.
Also Mardi Seng spoke about his sister Theary Seng who is a political prisoner in Cambodia where the President stays on and ignores the results of Presidential elections and imprisons all opposition. She is determined that “wrong will be right” eventually. Only her brother may visit her.

Mr Felix Maradiaga, who is an academic, political activist from Nicaragua and former Secretary General of the Ministry of Defense and Presidential Candidate was arrested in June 2021 and held in solitary confinement in Nicaragua by the President Ortega’s regime for the alleged crime of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity” In February this year he was suddenly released, exiled and flown to the US with 221 other political prisoners. So it does help to get political prisoners free by keeping their names well known, giving their family (often in exile) recognition, giving a voice to political movements in exile and keep giving the prisoners as much as possible emotional help! It must become in the self-interest of the regime to release the political prisoner! The work of the LI HRC remains very necessary.

The last evening FNF sponsored a dinner in the National Art Centre, with as special guest Rt. Hon. Jean Crétien, former Prime Minister of Canada (1993-2003).

The Dutch ladies were invited to attend a meeting of the women parliamentarians and women ambassadors by MP. Leah Taylor Roy. At this meeting we met our Dutch ambassador Ines Coppoolse, she invited the Dutch ladies to attend the 4th of May Netherlands Remembrance Day with the wreath laying ceremony, which we did. For them as Dutch it was moving to be able to commemorate in the Canadian cemetery those Canadians who died while freeing the Netherlands during the Second World War.

We also were invited to attend the Senate sitting as guest of Senator Mobina Jaffer, former President of INLW at the turn of the century.
At the start of the Canadian congress some of us attended the opening speech of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Photos: Danker van Valkenburg