The International AIDS Conference—the bi-annual event said to bring nearly 27,000 researchers, patients, journalists, and activists to the fine city of Toronto—kicked off yesterday with an evening of, well, really exciting stuff!
Celebrities, including Bill and Melinda Gates, Bill Clinton, Richard Gere, and Alicia Keys were in attendance. Even former prime minister Paul Martin said he’d be there to make a speech (before the conservatives triggered a snap election), as previous PMs have done (Yes, even Brian Mulroney). In fact, it seems like everyone who’s anyone was there to help put a stop to one of the world’s largest pandemics. Everyone except… Gee, who’s that guy again?
Ah, yes; silly me: Prime Minister Stephen Harper was notably absent, instead touring an arctic military base to “defend arctic sovereignty.”
Organisers and attendants of the AIDS conference are baffled, including Stephen Lewis, UN director for AIDS/HIV in Africa:
It’s a dreadful mistake in political judgment, and it’s not excusable. It’s a lost opportunity to tell the world how Canada feels about this pandemic. The Arctic sovereignty issue will still be there [when the conference ends]. Forty million people worldwide carry this virus, and most will die preventable deaths. What greater scourge is there than that?
I’ve asked time and again why he isn’t coming, and the answer I keep getting is that he doesn’t want to be booed.
Well, booing certainly seems to be a big problem for our prime minister and his MPs. But, hey, if he keeps this up—and with a little luck after the next election—maybe that won’t be a problem for him anymore.
- As AIDS activists, scientists, gather in Toronto, organisers ask: Where’s Harper? [Canada.com]
- Harper chooses Arctic over AIDS [Toronto Star]