Members of Parliament have voted unanimously to support a motion calling on the Canadian government to accept 10,000 Uyghurs fleeing persecution in China.
Those backing the motion Wednesday included members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, including Mr. Trudeau himself. In 2021, Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet had abstained from a previous motion in Parliament that condemned China’s repression of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims as genocide.
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, among those in the Commons on Wednesday who supported Motion M-62, did not expressly commit to bringing in 10,000 Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims over two years, as the parliamentary measure stipulates. The motion is non-binding on the government.
But, in a statement after the 322-0 vote in favour of M-62, Mr. Fraser said he is “committed to working with members of all parties to advance the measures outlined in the motion adopted by the House of Commons.”
M-62, which was championed by a member of the governing Liberal caucus, Montreal MP Sameer Zuberi, takes its cue from Parliament’s 2021 declaration that China is committing genocide against the Uyghurs and other minorities.
Mr. Zuberi, who spent more than half a year building support among MPs for Wednesday’s vote, said he interprets both the cabinet support for M-62 and Mr. Fraser’s statement as commitments to bring in 10,000 refugees.
“Each and every member voted for it by name, including the Prime Minister,” he said. “This is a promise to the Canadian people, to the international community, that we will do this.”
The motion as passed declares that Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims who have fled to third countries “face pressure and intimidation by the Chinese state to return to China, where they face the serious risk of mass arbitrary detention, mass arbitrary separation of children from their parents, forced sterilization, forced labour, torture and other atrocities.”
It says these countries where Uyghurs are now living – human-rights monitors have identified them as Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan – “face continued diplomatic and economic pressure from the People’s Republic of China to detain and deport Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, leaving them without a safe haven in the world.”
The motion is an indictment of China’s conduct and comes months after the Trudeau government laid out new foreign policy that describes Beijing as an “increasingly disruptive global power.”
The Chinese embassy in Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asked how he convinced cabinet ministers to support the motion, Mr. Zuberi noted more evidence of repression in China has emerged since Parliament voted in 2021 to call Beijing’s conduct tantamount to genocide.
Michelle Bachelet, until recently the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights, visited Xinjiang in 2022, and her office’s report from August was extremely critical, saying China has committed “serious human-rights violations” against Uyghur Muslims in the region, which may amount to crimes against humanity.
Ms. Bachelet’s report detailed “allegations of torture, sexual violence, ill-treatment, forced medical treatment, as well as forced labour and reports of deaths in custody.” It also discusses a sharp decline in birth rates in the Xinjiang region between 2017 and 2019 by more than 48.5 per cent: from 15.88 per thousand in 2017 to 8.14 per thousand in 2019.
Rights groups and media reports say the Chinese government has committed grave human-rights violations against Xinjiang’s largely Muslim Uyghur population, as well as other minorities. Forced labour and forced relocation to work in other provinces, China’s critics say, is the latest stage in a government-directed effort to exert control in Xinjiang, which Beijing has described as being infected with extremism.
Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, said about 80,000 Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities have fled China for countries in Central Asia and Turkey and are at risk of being sent back.
He called the vote a “historic day,” not for only Uyghurs but also for Canadians, parliamentarians and the Canadian government.
“By voting unanimously yes to the M-62, government of Canada has taken right step to address the ongoing Uyghur genocide,” he said, adding it sends the “right message to China.”