Although Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet abstained in Monday’s vote, a majority of lawmakers – including many participating liberals – voted in favor of the motion tabled by the opposition Conservative Party.
The motion, which recognizes “that the People’s Republic of China is currently carrying out genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkish Muslims,” also called on the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Marc Garneau was the only cabinet minister to vote in parliament and officially abstained from voting “on behalf of the Canadian government”.
Opposition leader Erin O’Toole, who led the parliamentary vote effort, called on the Trudeau administration to support the resolve that becomes symbolic but not government policy. “It is shameful that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government continue to refuse to call the Chinese Communist Party’s terrible behavior what it is: genocide,” O’Toole said Monday.
The parliamentary vote also makes Canada the first country to semi-officially support calls for Beijing to be excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics on allegations of human rights violations. More than 100 human rights organizations have come together to advocate a political boycott of the upcoming games, due to take place next February.
Call for international investigation
The motion is passed a little over a month after the U.S. government made the same decision. Then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the world was witnessing the “systematic attempt by the Uyghurs by the Chinese party state.” The Chinese government has repeatedly denied allegations of human rights violations against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. At a press conference on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin urged foreign countries “to stop intervening in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of Xinjiang-related or human rights issues.”
In a statement released after Monday’s vote, Canadian Foreign Minister Garneau said the Trudeau administration believes that allegations against China need to be investigated by international experts.
“The Canadian government takes all genocide allegations extremely seriously. We have a responsibility to work with others in the international community to ensure that such allegations are investigated by an independent international body of legal experts,” Garneau said in a statement released Monday . A “credible investigation” should be initiated by an international and independent body.
Garneau’s statement came the same day British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called on China to give the United Nations “urgent and unrestricted” access to Xinjiang so that allegations of human rights abuses could be independently investigated.
“The situation in Xinjiang is indescribable. The reported abuses – including torture, forced labor and forced sterilization of women – are extreme and extensive,” said Raab during an address to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.