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Oct-24-2011 19:04printcomments

Harper Says He Will Champion Human Rights at Perth Summit

Sri Lanka's government has denied its forces committed war crimes and has refused any investigation.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (CHRIS ROUSSAKIS/QMI Agency)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

(OTTAWA Edmonton Sun) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper jets to Perth, Australia, on Tuesday where he is expected to press Canada's commonwealth cousins to do more to champion human rights.

Harper will arrive in the western Australia city on Wednesday, where Queen Elizabeth II will preside over the biennial meeting of the 54 members of her commonwealth.

Harper has already said he will not attend the next summit unless the host country, Sri Lanka, does more to face up to what a United Nations expert panel called "credible allegations" that war crimes were perpetrated by the Sri Lankan military as that 25-year-long conflict concluded in 2009.

"I intend to make clear to my fellow leaders at the Commonwealth that if we do not see progress in Sri Lanka in terms of human rights, I will not as prime minister be attending that Commonwealth summit," Harper told reports on Sept. 9. "And I hope that others will take a similar position, but I hope that this will pressure the Sri Lankan government to take the appropriate actions."

Sri Lanka's government has denied its forces committed war crimes and has refused any investigation.

Harper also plans to take on the 41 members of the Commonwealth who have laws on their books that make being gay a crime.

Activists are putting increasing pressure on the Commonwealth to take action to defend gay rights in the wake of increasing homophobic violence in places like Uganda and Cameroon.

The leaders of the 16 commonwealth "realms" - Canada is among that group - will also discuss new succession rules for the British monarchy.

Among other things, the new rules would allow future monarchs to marry a Roman Catholic, a practice now outlawed by the 1701 Act of Settlement.

The proposed changes to that ancient act will also remove the priority male heirs have to the throne over female heirs.

The Queen is said to be in agreement with those changes.

David Akin is the Parliamentary Bureau Chief for the Edmonton Sun

Originally published by CNews

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