Toronto AIDS conference opens without Canadian Prime Minister

Monday, August 14, 2006

Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not attend the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto. This is now drawing criticism from event organizers.

Harper said earlier when he was in the Canadian federal election, 2006, that he was not going to attend the AIDS conference. It is not known why he didn't want to attend.

"We are dismayed that the prime minister of Canada, Mr. Stephen Harper, is not here this evening," Dr. Mark Wainberg said at the Rogers Centre on yesterday. "Mr. Harper, the role of prime minister includes the responsibility to show leadership on the world stage. Your absence sends a message that you do not regard HIV/AIDS as a critical priority and clearly all of us here tonight disagree with you,” Wainberg said.

Wainberg was one of the first to speak and criticized the prime minister for missing the event.

Harper instead chose to tour the Arctic aboard a naval ship. He received many boos from the audience at the mention of his name, including a remark by Richard Gere (an American actor and a speaker at the event). A group near the stage stood up and chanted "Where is Harper?"

Canada's health minister Tony Clement defended the prime minister's absence, saying it doesn't mean a lack of commitment in the fight against AIDS.

Tony Clement said the federal government has adequate representation at the international conference and it is committed to helping people around the world through an access-to-medicine program.

Related news