Tibet in Montreal

Last week, I traveled east to Montreal for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s public talk at the Uniprix Tennis Stadium. It was so wonderful, as always, to see His Holiness in bright spirits, and in turn everyone else who caught his contagious smile by the end of the talk.

Before, during, and after the public talk, I, along with Montreal SFTers tabled at the event for Students for a Free Tibet, gathering petition signatures for our Stop Mining Tibet and Nomad Rights campaigns as well as for the release of Dhondup Wangchen, Rungye Adak, Norzin Wangmo and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. It was great to see that people had taken His Holiness’ words to heart from his talk that day entitled “Global Citizenship through Universal Responsibility” – it seemed that people were more empowered and enthusiastic to take action for Tibet after the talk, signing petitions and postcards, asking us questions about the situation in Tibet, and supporting our work for Tibet by buying our cool SFT merch and making donations. We thank everyone who came to see us that day and supported our work. As a side note, I was also told by the local SFTers that several Quebecois celebrities were at the talk that day and some even came to our table!

I stayed in town a couple of extra days, in large part due to that fact that I head that there was a new Tibetan documentary about Tibetans nomads being premiered in Montreal. The documentary titled “Tibet: terre des braves” (or Tibet: Land of the Brave) was filmed in Tibet and made by a Montreal couple who I had met once a few years ago. The film follows their trip back to Tibet where Gyamtso la’s (the husband) nomadic family lives.

With Gyamtso la, who not only helped make the film, but also provided beautiful vocals for the film's soundtrack

This film was very different from any other Tibet film I’ve seen – it gives you a real inside look into the Tibetan nomadic way of life. It reminded me of the film ‘Summer Pastures’ which I saw earlier this year, however, it was much more open and outright about how China’s government policies are systematically destroying the very way of life of Tibetan nomads. The film provided real facts and figures to illustrate just how quickly, through what means, and to what degree this traditional way of life is being wiped out.

I won’t give away everything that is described in the film, but one fact that really struck me was that although China claims that they are helping to benefit and modernize Tibetan nomads by resettling them into modern housing, these houses aren’t in any way simply given to the nomads by the government. China’s policies not only force the nomads to leave their traditional way of life, but the nomads have to pay for the housing themselves, and are subsequently forced to pay expensive water bills, electricity bills, etc. – something they’ve never had to do before.

Something else that really struck my friend with whom I watched the film (and something that I had missed since I was only able to understand about 80% of the film with it being in completely in the French language), was that the nomad families receive fines if they don’t send their kids to the government schools. While education is important, this tactic that the Chinese government employs completely alienates children from their families’ nomadic way of life, bringing the nomadic way to a complete halt within individual families – this sad reality is perfectly illustrated in the film.

Below is the trailer for the film for you to check out (it’s in the French language):

And some good news if you’re in the Montreal area; the film’s screening has been extended to this week in both the French and English language. Definitely a must-see if you’re in the area!

To finish off this post, during the Q and A at the end of the film, my friend asked the filmmakers what we, as ordinary people here in the west, can do, and they said that just spreading the word and letting people know about what’s taking place in Tibet right now can help. I hope this blog post helps to do just that. But to take it one step further, I encourage you to sign this petition targeting Chinese government officials calling for the halt of forced resettlement of Tibetan nomads, as well as to educate yourselves more about the situation so you can then help spread the word as well.

Tenzin Lobsang

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