Africa Editors' Choice World

Tue 23 February 2021:

Canada’s House of Commons has voted overwhelmingly to declare China’s treatment of its Uighur minority population a genocide– a deliberate attempt to obliterate a group of people.  

The motion makes Canada just the second country after the United States to recognise China’s actions as genocide.

“A genocide is currently being carried out against the Uighurs and other Turkish Muslims,” said the motion that was passed by the Canadian Parliament in 266-0 vote. 

Prime Minister Justice Trudeau and most members of his cabinet abstained.

The parliament also voted 229-29 to lobby the Olympic committee to move the Olympics if China does not stop the genocide. 

Trudeau has so far been hesitant to label China’s actions against the Uighur minority in Xinjiang a genocide, calling the term “extremely loaded” and saying further examination was needed before a decision could be made.

The entire Trudeau Cabinet of 35 ministers abstained from the vote on the motion that was put forward by the Conservative Party. However, no Liberals voted against the motion. 


Speaking ahead of the vote, opposition leader Erin O’Toole said the move was necessary to send a “clear and unequivocal signal that we will stand up for human rights and the dignity of human rights, even if it means sacrificing some economic opportunity”.

The Trudeau government said last week, when media reported the upcoming vote, that it preferred more investigation before using the label and to have ally countries join together for a multilateral front in applying the situation as genocide. 

But Canada is certainly not ignoring the Uighur plight, said Finance Minister Marc Garneau. 

“We are seriously concerned,” he said Tuesday. “We clearly (have) stated this to the Chinese government.” 

The first reports of mistreatment surfaced in 2017 and since then about one million Uighurs have been put in upwards of 400 concentration camps. 

The UN and various media outlets have reported on the atrocities, saying the minority Uighurs in the internment camps are subjected to sexual assault, forced sterilization, beatings, and other abuses. About 10 million Uighurs inhabit the Xinjiang province. 

At a press conference called by the Conservatives Monday morning before the vote, an Uighur woman who had been hired to teach Chinese at one of the camps in 2017 said she witnessed the abuse first hand – intimidation, rape and other abuses. 

“No one should be subjected to such cruelty,” Kalbinur Tursun said through an interpreter. 

Monday’s non-binding motion marks the latest escalation in Canada-China relations, which have soured over recent years.

The Beijing government denies the Uighurs are mistreated. State television shows Uighurs in spotless classrooms, smiling and enjoying their lessons in “re-education centres” where they are taught to forego extremist activities and taught vocations. 

The Chinese point to one example of the extremism when in 2014 Uighurs armed with knives killed 31 people at a train station.

But evidence shows that they undergo extensive psychological indoctrination programs aimed at making the Uighurs worship President Xi Jinping and learning communist propaganda. As well, Uighurs are used as cheap labor to produce goods sold in China and internationally. 

At the weekend, China’s ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu told the Canadian Press that the motion was “interfering in [China’s] domestic affairs”.

“We firmly oppose that because it runs counter to facts,” he said. “There’s nothing like genocide happening in Xinjiang at all.”

Before the vote, the human rights organization Justice For All Canada urged its members to contact their local Members of Parliament and encourage them to vote yes. 

“It is imperative that our Federal Government acts upon its international legal obligations to prevent persecution and genocide of unrecognized, vulnerable ethnic minorities,” the organization said in a press release, Sunday.




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