On February 22nd, a House of Commons motion declared the Chinese government’s treatment of their Uyghur population a genocide. The motion was met with overwhelming support, passing with a vote of 266 to 0 for the condemnation of the state.[1]

Canada has thus become only the second country to declare China’s actions a genocide, after the United States.[2] However, over 64 Liberal MPs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, chose to abstain from the vote. In other words, they didn’t show up to work that day.

Since 2016, China has been carrying out a covert mission against the Uyghur population and other Muslims in its Xinjiang province. UN experts have found that more than one million of them have since been detained.[3] Thanks to survivor testimonies, satellite imagery, and leaked Chinese documents, there is concrete evidence of rape, torture, cultural assimilation, systemic sexual violence from forced abortions, forced insertions of IUDs, and forced sterilization, all with the intention of significantly reducing the Uyghur population. 

According to the UN, the crime of genocide includes a mental element or the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group,” as well as a physical element including “imposing measures intended to prevent births,” or “causing serious… harm to members of the group.”[4] 

The substantial evidence makes it clear that Uyghurs are systematically being targeted by the Chinese government with little room for debate, certainly not amongst accredited scholars. 

However, it appears as though Trudeau and many European governments would rather hide than publicly denounce China’s violation of international human rights laws. 

This begs the question: Are Canadians really ready to take a stand for human rights and accept the sacrifices that will come with it? What is needed are targeted sanctions aimed at stopping the import of Chinese goods that come from the enslaved Uyghur population, but reports show that this will likely jeopardize 7% of Canada’s trade.[5] 

The vote also pushed to relocate the 2022 Olympic Games in Tokyo — a move that will likely garner much support.[6] But these symbolic acts will do little to stop the rape, torture, and murder China is inflicting.  Every state with agency must therefore be willing to make a selfless stand against this genocide without contemplating how it will affect economic opportunity.

Those committing the crimes must be punished; the victims must be protected. It is time for the world to recognize and respond rapidly to the call of help from our Uyghur brothers and sisters. 

[1]Jones, R. P. (2021, February 23). MPs vote to label China’s persecution of Uyghurs a genocide | CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/Uyghur-genocide-motion-vote-1.5922711

[2] Wherry, A. (2021, February 22). Why the genocide question about China is hard for the Trudeau government to answer | CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/china-genocide-Uyghur-conservative-motion-1.5921207

[3] URAP Press Release on the Parliamentary Recognition of Uyghur Genocide. (2021, February). Retrieved from https://www.urap.ca/urap-press-release-on-the-parliamentary-recognition-of-uyghur-genocide/

[4] United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.shtml

[5] Jones, R. P. (2021, February 23). MPs vote to label China’s persecution of Uyghurs a genocide | CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/Uyghur-genocide-motion-vote-1.5922711

[6] Conservative leader O’Toole calls for relocation of Beijing Olympics. (2021, February 16). Retrieved from https://www.sportsnet.ca/olympics/article/conservative-leader-otoole-calls-relocation-beijing-olympics/