June 29, 2021, saw the shocking defeat of a highly publicized motion put forward in Canada’s Senate. This motion would have officially recognized that a genocide – instigated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against China’s Uighur Muslim minority – is in fact taking place. The defeat of this motion reflects a denial of what has actually been happening to the Uighur people for about seven years, and does little to advance Canada’s reputation as a sincere defender of justice and human rights.
A similar vote took place in February 2021 in the House of Commons. Although this vote did pass, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and almost all of his cabinet abstained from voting, arguing that more evidence is needed before the actions of the CCP can be labelled as genocidal. Senators voted against the June motion for many different reasons, two beings, as stated by Senator Peter Boehm, that words should be weighed carefully and caution prioritized, and that the passing of this motion would have no discernible impact. Contrarily, not only is there ample evidence to show that a genocide is taking place, but the intervention of Canada in this affair would and should be a step to ensuring that this atrocity stops, regardless of how it may vex the CCP.
The United Nations outlines five qualifications in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which determine what is considered as a genocide. The conditions that the Uighurs have been exposed to more than amply satisfy these terms. Information concerning their treatment has been released to the public in many ways: by multiple disturbing reports from media outlets and independent researchers, such as the investigation undertaken by Newsline Institutes, leaked records, such as the Karakax list, satellite imagery which proves the locations of Uighur detainment camps, and by harrowing testimonials from former detainees themselves, two examples being Tursunay Ziyawudun and Mihrigul Tursun. Reports include stories of torture, indoctrination, systematic rape, separation of families, forced sterilization, executions, innumerable missing people, and many other atrocities. These conditions more than align with the UN’s definition of genocide. Any claim that there is not ample proof to suggest a genocide is taking place stems from either nescience or willful denial. No more evidence is needed and immediate action should be taken, for how much worse can the reports get?
There is no room for caution in a matter such as this. Indeed, Canada-China relations are at an all-time low on account of the ongoing Huawei episode, but that should not stop Ottawa from doing the right thing, particularly when it has to do with serious human rights violations. Exercising caution over justice has never been and should never be the deciding virtue for Canada’s actions (or the lack of it).
The defeat of this senatorial motion nonetheless begs the question: what impact would this motion have had if it had passed? The first step towards stopping any atrocity is to recognize that it is occurring. PM Trudeau should be taking decisive measures to stop this atrocity. As the representative of Canada, he should also ensure that he represents the values for which Canada stands, namely justice and freedom for all, as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Silence upon such an important matter can be seen as approval.
Regardless of religious or political affiliations, one should be very concerned about what is happening to the Uighurs in China. Such is the graveness of the atrocity that many policymakers and human rights experts are drawing parallels with the Holocaust. Western civilization was founded on Judeo-Christian values of charity, compassion, and freedom, for which many early explorers and missionaries suffered and even died to bring to fruition. Canada ought to learn from the experience of those who do not necessarily enjoy these benefits and do all she can to ensure that they do.