A Surrey resident says she is “bewildered” by the response she got from Mayor Dianne Watts regarding her concerns about former U.S. president George W. Bush speaking at a city event later this year.
On February 22, Janine McKay told Watts by e-mail how she feels about having Bush in Canada.
“I have grave concerns about the message your office is sending to our residents and to people world wide that a free and just country such as Canada would welcome such an alleged human rights abuser,” McKay wrote. “I believe that all humans have a right to free speech as George W Bush is entitled to his opinion but the lives of all the ones who were suspected to have been tortured, illegally detained or even murdered at the hands of the Bush administration is haunting my conscience.”
The mayor responded by e-mail the next day. Watts wrote that the 2011 Surrey Regional Economic Summit, which will feature Bush and former U.S. president Bill Clinton as keynote speakers on October 20, aims to “generate a dialogue about new approaches to the challenges we face as a city, province and a country”.
Watts told McKay: “This is an exciting, positive time for Surrey. Leaders in global issues are beginning to make an annual trek to our city and the Surrey Summit is becoming recognized as a forum for an exchange of economic ideas that is unrivalled in the Lower Mainland.”
In a letter to several media outlets, McKay states that she is “stupefied at how Canada downplays or outright ignores our duty to uphold the laws of reputable world high courts and our historically decided ”˜human rights’ ”.
“The City of Surrey is welcoming a man accused of creditably alleged war crimes to an ”˜economic’ event also despite the debt he left to the American public,” McKay wrote.
She also noted that Watts didn’t address her concerns as a city resident and a Canadian citizen.
“I am left bewildered at the lack of acknowledgment from our mayor regarding an honest area of concern for many Surrey residents,” McKay stated. “The City of Surrey boasts about culture, arts, economics and diversity but yet when questions about the relevance of the tens of thousands of civilians affected by alleged war crimes in a war Canada supports politically, I feel democratically responsible to ask why?”