Trudeau Dithers as Canadian Parliament Recognizes Uyghur Genocide

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Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada February 19, 2021. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

When Canada’s House of Commons voted this afternoon to recognize the Chinese Communist Party’s drive to destroy its Uyghur population as genocide, it did so with no help from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Last week, Trudeau acknowledged that it was worth looking into using the word, but he urged caution because the label is “extremely loaded.” When parliament voted today, not a single MP voted against. While most of Trudeau’s government was absent, foreign minister Marc Garneau voted to abstain “on behalf of the government of Canada.”

Were he to act on parliament’s demands, though, issuing such a determination would make Canada the second country in the world to recognize the CCP’s crimes per the text of the 1948 U.N. Genocide Convention, following the Trump administration’s January determination of crimes against humanity and genocide in Xinijang. The measure also called on the Canadian government to push for the relocation of the 2022 Winter Olympics, which are set to take place in Beijing.

Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole, who led the push on the genocide amendment, said in a lengthy statement last week detailing the evidence of crimes fitting the definition of the 1948 convention, “I ask Prime Minister Trudeau. How much more evidence of atrocities do you need?”

Despite the numerous victim accounts, research on Chinese government documents, and satellite imagery analysis proving the existence of a 21st century surveillance state, a mass detention campaign, systematic torture, forced sterilization, and a number of other crimes that would go to support such a finding, this was not enough for Trudeau to endorse a finding of genocide.

Ahead of the vote on Monday, Charles Burton, a senior fellow at Ottawa’s Macdonald-Laurier Institute, told me via email that former U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s finding of genocide and Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s willingness to stick with it raised the urgency with which Canadians asked their government to do the same. Burton also told me that there’s still more work to be done on sanctions targeting the perpetrators.

“At present the Trudeau Government’s stance is that Canada would not implement Magnitsky sanctions on PRC officials complicit in the genocide except jointly with a coalition of like-minded nations,” Burton wrote. “But very strong political pressure supported by overwhelming public opinion could induce the Liberals to implement the sanctions sooner . . .  before they call a general election in the months ahead.”

This afternoon’s vote is a clear rebuke of Trudeau’s reluctance to act — and it shows that the U.S. determination has encouraged at least one foreign legislature to call the CCP the genocidal regime that it is.

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