MPs from Canada’s governing Liberal Party and opposition politicians are calling for Ottawa to take action following a parliamentary motion declaring China’s persecution of Muslim minorities to be genocide.
Members of Parliament are urging the Canadian government to create a refugee program to provide safe haven for Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, to toughen rules preventing the import of goods made with forced labour and to impose sanctions on top Chinese officials responsible for the repression.
“We’ve got to walk the talk,” said Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi, one of the Liberal MPs who voted with Conservative, NDP, Bloc Québécois and Green politicians to pass the House of Commons motion Monday 266 to zero. The Conservatives sponsored the motion.
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet abstained, a majority of the Liberal caucus backed the motion recognizing “that a genocide is being carried out by the People’s Republic of China against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims” in the Xinjiang region.
The Chinese government, meanwhile, lashed out Tuesday at what Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman called the “smearing and attacking of China” over Xinjiang and disputed accounts from women who have described widespread sexual abuse in the region.
“Facts have proven that there has never been genocide in Xinjiang. This is the lie of the century made up by extremely anti-China forces,” Wang Wenbin said.
For years, evidence has emerged regarding the widespread detention, forcible political indoctrination, coerced employment and sterilization of ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other largely Muslim groups in northwestern China. Chinese authorities have denied any wrongdoing.
Mr. Wang suggested that those alleging systemic abuse of Muslim minorities might not have all the facts. But he said he is not aware of any effort in China to investigate allegations of systematic abuses in Xinjiang.
“I have not heard of any working group or investigation” into the matter, he said.
China has made its position clear to the Canadian government over the genocide motion, Mr. Wang said, accusing Canada of trampling on its own values by spreading “lies.” Beijing “will surely make a resolute response” to any action that “harms Chinese interests,” he warned.
Liberal MP John McKay, another supporter of Monday’s motion, said he would like to see the government adopt a private bill he has spearheaded to beef up rules prohibiting the import of products made by slaves or other victims of forced labour. Legislation he introduced in the last Parliament has been resurrected as a Senate bill. Bill S-216 would require companies to certify each year to the minister of public safety that their supply chain is free of goods produced by slavery or forced labour.
Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld, who also backed Monday’s motion, said she supports all the recommendations made by the Commons’ subcommittee on human rights last October, when it became the first Canadian parliamentary body to label China’s conduct as genocide. Among other things, the committee called for “an exceptional refugee stream, to expedite refugee applications of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims fleeing persecution in Xinjiang and elsewhere.”
Liberal MP Wayne Easter, another supporter of the China motion, said Canada must work with allies to stand up to China’s human-rights abuses.
NDP foreign affairs critic Jack Harris said he wants Canada to strengthen prohibitions against the imports of goods made from forced labour in China and to slap sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the oppressions of the Uyghurs.
Monday’s motion also called on the Canadian government to push for the relocation of the 2022 Winter Olympics out of Beijing.
Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said Ottawa must contact the International Olympic Committee to request the 2022 Games be moved. He said Canada should also persuade legislative bodies in allied countries to issue similar condemnations of China’s conduct. And, he said, Canada must toughen anti-forced labour import rules.
The Globe and Mail asked the Prime Minister’s Office what measures it planned to take as a result of the motion. Mr. Trudeau’s staff referred the question to Global Affairs. The Globe asked the department whether it planned to issue anti-forced labour rules or slap sanctions on Chinese officials.
The department said recent legal amendments give Ottawa the authority to block goods “produced in whole or in part by forced labour” and that it “expects Canadian companies active abroad ... to respect human rights, operate lawfully” and conduct their activities in accordance with international guidelines. If they don’t, Global Affairs said, companies could be denied federal trade-promotion support or federal financial assistance.
As for sanctions on Chinese officials, the department said: “Canada is judicious in its approach regarding when to deploy sanctions” and will “continue to work with international partners to ensure that human rights are respected around the world.”
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.