TORONTO — Canada’s main opposition party called Thursday for the House of Commons to formally declare that China is committing genocide against more than 1 million Uighurs in the western Xinjiang region.
Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole said a signal must be sent to the Chinese regime.
“On a matter like genocide, Canada needs 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,” O’Toole said. “Our values are not for sale.”
The motion is non-binding on the federal government nor does it lay out what any next steps ought to be. A vote is expected Monday. The main opposition parties support the motion and control the majority of seats in the House of Commons.
There was no immediate indication of what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party would do on the proposed declaration.
After O’Toole urged the government this week to press the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics out of Beijing, Trudeau hesitated at using the word “genocide,” which he called an “extremely loaded” term.
“When it comes to the application of the very specific word genocide, we simply need to ensure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed before a determination like that is made,” Trudeau this week.
The move is the latest attempt to hold China accountable for its treatment of the Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim and ethnic Turkic minorities, who have been subjected to an unprecedented crackdown that is increasingly drawing international concern.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared before he left office that China’s policies against Xinjiang’s Muslims and ethnic minorities constituted crimes against humanity and genocide. His successor, Antony Blinken, reiterated the statement on his first day in office.
Researchers and rights groups estimate that since 2016, China has rounded up a million or more Uighurs and other minorities into prisons and vast indoctrination camps that the state calls training centers.
Pompeo cited widespread forced birth control and forced labor among Uighurs. The Associated Press reported last year that the Chinese government was systematically forcing sterilization and abortion on Uighur and other Muslim women and sent many to camps simply for having too many children.
China denies any abuses and insists the steps it has taken are necessary to combat terrorism and a separatist movement.
O’Toole has also said China is imposing a police state on Hong Kong and arbitrarily detaining two Canadians in Chinese prisons. He said if the Olympics are not moved, a boycott could be considered.
Canada continues to press Beijing to release Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, both detained since December 2018 following Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at the Chinese technology company Huawei and the daughter of the company’s founder. Canadian police detained Meng in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition request nine days before Kovrig and Spavor were arrested.
The U.S. is seeking Meng’s extradition on fraud charges, and her extradition case is before the Canadian courts. Her arrest severely damaged relations between China and Canada. China has also sentenced two other Canadians to death and suspended canola imports.