File photo of a meeting between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2007.
DHARAMSHALA, April 28: Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Friday afternoon in his Parliament Hill office for about 20 minutes.
The Dalai Lama is currently in Canada on the last leg of his North America visit. He is scheduled to give a public talk on ‘Ethics for a Whole World’ organised by the Canada Tibet Committee at the Civic Centre on April 28.
The Prime Minister's Office designated the meeting as a "private courtesy call," in an apparent attempt diffuse criticism from China.
The last time Prime Minister Harper met with the Dalai Lama in 2007, the Chinese Embassy had warned Canada to "stop interfering with China's internal affairs." Since then, Harper made two trips to China to boost trade with the Asian economic superpower.
During his last trip in February, 2012, Harper maintained that China can expect him to continue to advocate for improved human rights conditions.
However, Harper’s muted meeting with the Nobel Peace Laureate has drawn flak from lawmakers in Canada as well as Tibet supporters.
Tory MP Rob Anders chastised Harper for not receiving the Dalai Lama publicly, and making a more fulsome display of solidarity.
"Do I wish it were in a public format? Yes," he said. "Do I think we need to aid our allies more than we do? Yes."
Long time supporter of Tibet, actor Richard Gere said it was a positive thing for Harper to schedule a meeting with the Dalai Lama but ceded that the meeting should have been public.
Gere also warned the Harper government not to abandon its commitment to the Dalai Lama in pursuit of China's growing wealth.
"Change will come to China; the only question is when," he said. "If you want to sell the food, machines, even oil and gas — this isn't an issue, but they don't own your thoughts, your moral backbone."
Official Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair also met with the Dalai Lama Friday afternoon along with a small group of MPs from all parties.
Former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin was the first Canadian leader to host the Dalai Lama in 2004.
In 2006, the House of Commons had voted to give the Dalai Lama honourary Canadian citizenship.