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Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in Port of Spain, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, as he is greeted by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Protocol Officer Maxine Barnett on Thursday November 26, 2009.

Sean Kilpatrick

The Canadian government has followed the United Kingdom in announcing it will oppose Sri Lanka's bid to host the next summit of 53 Commonwealth countries.

"Canada will not be supporting Sri Lanka as the next host of the Commonwealth summit," Prime Minister's Office spokesman Dimitri Soudas said.

It's a sharp rebuke to the Asian country's handling of a brutal and bloody war with Tamil Tiger insurgents that left 7,000 civilians dead and 150,000 displaced.

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The measure will likely find favour with Tamil Canadian voters in the Greater Toronto Area, a vote-rich region the Conservatives must court to win a majority in the next election.

Sri Lanka had announced at the end of the last meeting of Commonwealth countries that it wanted to host the 2011 summit.

Mr. Soudas declined to elaborate on the record.

However a senior government official said "we continue to be concerned with the situation in Sri Lanka."

The Canadian official also called on Sri Lanka to work harder to return to their homes those displaced by the conflict with the Tamil Tigers.

"Canada continues to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure full and unhindered humanitarian access to internally displaced populations," the official said.

"Canada strongly supports the early, safe and voluntary return of internally displaced populations to their home communities."

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"We welcome the Canadian government's decision to stand with Britain on the side of human rights," said David Poopalapillai, National Spokesperson for the Canadian Tamil Congress.

"The international community has a responsibility to ensure Sri Lanka is held accountable for its crimes against humanity, large scale massacres and internment camps in this year alone. By taking this stance at the Commonwealth, the Canadian government is taking positive steps by applying pressure to improve human rights in Sri Lanka."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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