In this file photo, the Canada flag flies above the Canadian embassy in Beijing on January 15, 2019. (AFP)
In this file photo, the Canada flag flies above the Canadian embassy in Beijing on January 15, 2019. (AFP)

Canada’s parliament votes to label Chinese actions in Xinjiang as ‘genocide’

House of Commons voted 266-0 for the motion that was brought by the opposition Conservative Party. PM Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet abstained from the vote. Many Liberal Party MPs backed it, though
By Anirudh Bhattacharyya I Edited by Nadim Siraj
UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2021 12:39 PM IST

Canada’s parliament has passed a motion that labels Chinese actions against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province as “genocide”.

The House of Commons voted 266-0 for the motion that was brought by the opposition Conservative Party.

Not a single member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party cabinet voted for the motion. Canada’s foreign minister Marc Garneau was present in the House as the motion was voted upon, but he abstained. Many Liberal Party MPs backed it, though.

Tensions between Canada and China are set to further escalate following the passage of an opposition amendment to a motion that calls on the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympic Games from China to another country. That motion passed 229-29.

Beijing is set to host the 2022 edition of the Winter Olympics from February 4-20.

The Trudeau administration itself has not used the “genocide” label for the Chinese government’s actions in Xinjiang.

Foreign minister Garneau’s office reacted to the motion on Xinjiang with a statement released by Global Affairs Canada that said, “The government of Canada takes any allegations of genocide extremely seriously. We have the responsibility to work with others in the international community in ensuring that any such allegations are investigated by an independent international body of legal experts.”

It also called for a “credible international investigation in response to allegations of genocide” and that it “must be conducted by an international and independent body so that impartial experts can observe and report on the situation first-hand”.

Even though the Trudeau government is taking a balanced stand on the Xinjiang issue, the motion is set to worsen relations between the two countries.

In a sharp statement before the vote, the Chinese ambassador to Ottawa, Cong Peiwu, said Beijing expressed “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition over this”.

Accusing those behind the motion of “spreading disinformation and even lies”, he said there was no genocide in Xinjiang and Chinese actions were “about combating violent terrorism and secession”.

Calling upon the motions against China to be scrapped, he said, “We urge the Canadian side to take seriously China’s solemn position, respect the facts, discard prejudice, and correct mistakes, immediately cancel the relevant motions, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs by any means, so as not to cause further damages to China-Canada relations.”

Relations between the two countries have suffered since Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, was arrested in Vancouver in 2018 in a US extradition request for allegedly circumventing sanctions imposed on Iran.

In what Trudeau has described as “hostage diplomacy”, Beijing retaliated by arresting two Canadians, including a former diplomat, who remain jailed in China.

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