Dalai Lama thanks Harper for visit

The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet says he thanked Prime Minister Stephen Harper for "standing firm" and having the "courage" to meet him, despite Canada's growing ties with China.

The Dalai Lama is in Canada this weekend for the 6th World Parliamentarians' Convention on Tibet, and the Ottawa visit is the Dalai Lama's only Canadian stop on a worldwide tour.

Canada has been trying to increase its trade with China and could soon begin exploratory talks to eventually negotiate a free-trade agreement. But Harper said during his February, 2012, trip to China that the country can expect him to continue to advocate for improved human rights conditions.

Harper met with the 76-year-old Buddhist leader behind closed doors Friday afternoon. The two hadn't met since the Dalai Lama's visit in October, 2007, which drew a rebuke from the Chinese Embassy.

During the Dalai Lama's last visit to Canada in 2009, Harper did not meet him.

During a news conference Saturday after a speech and question-and-answer session at the Civic Centre, the Dalai Lama told reporters he thanked Harper during their meeting for the country's plan to bring 1,000 Tibetans living in eastern India to Canada over five years.

7,000 people attended Civic Centre speech

About 7,000 people packed into the Civic Centre to hear the Dalai Lama speak about positive thinking, optimism and his vision of a kinder future.

"I think this century can be the century of peace," Tibet's spiritual leader told the crowd to a round of applause.

"We have to develop the concept of the oneness of humanity," he said.

Warm hearts, optimism and self-discipline are the only way to combat the fear, anxiety, distress and frustration that comes with being self centered, he said.

During his speech and question-and-answer session, the exiled spirital leader of Tibet offered advice about dealing with personal problems and talked about fear and violence in the modern world. The Dalai Lama said more and more people all over the planet are choosing peace.

The event wrapped up around 12 p.m. ET, and was followed by a news conference.

Conservative, Liberal and NDP parliamentarians are taking part in the conference on Tibet, along with academics and experts on China and Tibet.

Actor Richard Gere, a longtime supporter of Tibet, is also attending and introduced the Dalai Lama at the Civic Centre on Saturday.

"I don't think there's anyone like him in our lifetime," Gere told the crowd. The Dalai Lama then got a standing ovation when he appeared on stage.

Official Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair also met with the Dalai Lama Friday afternoon, a spokesman confirmed, with a small group of MPs from all parties.

China claims Tibet as part of its territory, and Canada officially recognizes China as the government of Tibet.

In 2006, the House of Commons voted to give the Dalai Lama honourary Canadian citizenship. That move also drew criticism from China.

Tibet is an autonomous region of China. The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in northern India since 1959.