That, given the motion adopted unanimously by the House on February 22, 2021, recognizing that a genocide is currently being carried out by the People's Republic of China against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, in the opinion of the House, the government should:
(a) recognize that Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims that 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;
(b) recognize that many of these third countries 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;
(c) urgently leverage Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program to expedite the entry of 10,000 Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in need of protection, over two years starting in 2024 into Canada; and
(d) table in the House, within 120 sitting days following the adoption of this motion, a report on how the refugee resettlement plan will be implemented.
He said: Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be here in the House with all members today. I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on Algonquin territory.
Today is an important day. We will be discussing an important program that is within Motion No. 62, a motion to welcome 10,000 Uighur who are facing genocide within China right now, at this moment in time.
This motion calls for the Government of Canada to resettle 10,000 Uighur as of 2024 from third countries. Why third countries? It is because we cannot welcome, unfortunately, Uighur who are currently undergoing the genocide within China, but we can provide safe haven for vulnerable Uighur within third countries. These third countries primarily include countries from north Africa and the Arab world, but not exclusively. There are several other countries where Uighur people are living and are present.
We have heard a lot of testimony from survivors at committees and at the Subcommittee on International Human Rights. In the past we have heard horrifying nightmare stories of people being abused in unspeakable ways, of women being violated and men too. We heard about forced labour. There are over a million people currently in forced labour camps. We heard about children, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, being separated from their families when they should be in the care of their moms and dads.
We know that 20% of the world's cotton is produced in China, likely tainted by forced labour. We know that 35% of tomato products are also tainted by forced labour because they come from the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region. We know that 45% of polyurethane, which is the base material for solar panels, as the world tries to go green, is also tainted by forced labour. This is wholly and entirely unacceptable. This is something that we, as a country and as a human family, must stand up against.
We had a motion from the benches opposite in February 2021 that called on the House to recognize that a genocide is in fact occurring. Thankfully the House voted unanimously and spoke with one voice on that matter. Not a single person voted against it. We unanimously voted to recognize that a genocide is in fact occurring toward the Uighur people.
This issue is not a partisan issue. For those who make it such, shame on them. They know who they are. This is an issue about people who are dying, who are being violated and who are being mistreated. We said after World War II that this would not happen again. After Bosnia and Yugoslavia, we also reconfirmed that intent. After what happened in Rwanda, we did the same, and with the Rohingya again. Now we know, a genocide is occurring.
What are we going to do? We heard the reports. We know the reports. Many of us have read the reports, over 50 pages long, from Michelle Bachelet, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She said that these allegations of the Uighur people are well-founded, and they also may amount to international crimes, including crimes against humanity. These are high crimes in international law, as is genocide.
The international community, in 2005, said that these types of international crimes must be prevented. Therefore, each and every country has a responsibility to protect when we see crimes against humanity occurring, or the threat of them occurring. When we see genocide occurring or the threat of genocide occurring, we, as a human family, as a collective of countries and as Canada, all have a responsibility to protect.
Our responsibility is engaged and we must act. One way in which we can answer this is by voting for this program to welcome 10,000 Uighurs here in Canada. We have a proud tradition in our country of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers. This is a proud Canadian tradition.
This program will not halt the genocide. It will put a slight dent in it. This program will not answer our obligation, the responsibility, to protect. It will in part answer it. This is something that speaks to our tradition. This is something that we can do, should do, must do.
In the past, we have welcomed many different people who have been fleeing for their lives from genocides, from crimes against humanity. Recently, we can think of Yazidis, Syrians and Afghans. We can think of Hongkongers. We created some special pathways. We can do this again, now, today.
I will share some facts about the Uighur people. Who are they? We hear the term but we do not know who they are.
Like all people, they are a proud people. They live in the western part of China, what they have traditionally called East Turkestan, what we know in international law as Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region.
Xinjiang has a particular meaning. It means “new frontier” in the tongue of the majority of people within China. It is approximately, as I mentioned, one-sixth the land mass of China. It also has many vast deserts and mountains. It historically has been part of the ancient Silk Road trade route that connected China, that allowed for trade to occur to Europe and the Middle East. That trade route is being revived, but with a modern update, with highways and the free flow of goods.
That is why the supply chain issue is a big question. The current belt and road initiative runs through Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
As I mentioned earlier, 20% of the world's cotton is produced there. Eighty per cent of China's cotton actually comes from the region. I will repeat that for all of us who buy cotton. Eighty per cent of Chinese cotton comes from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, as does 35% of tomato products, pasta and pizza.
I love pasta and pizza. Contrary to first impressions, I am actually one-quarter Italian and one-quarter Sicilian. I joke sometimes that my colour comes from my Sicilian side. It is a bad joke, but I say it sometimes.
We know that approximately 45% of the base materials for solar panels come from that region also. Minerals, such as gold, silver and zinc come from there. It is very mineral-rich.
There has been atomic testing also in the region since the 1960s. In addition to all of the horrors that we heard, these things are occurring.
These horrors are real, so real, as I mentioned, that the former high commissioner of human rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that these allegations are well-founded.
Thankfully, in addition to my motion, we had a preview this week in the House when we were discussing and then voted to concur in the immigration committee's report, which called for immigration. That report unfortunately, or fortunately, did not specify something. That report that we all unanimously concurred in this week said that we should create special immigration measures for Uighur people and other Turkic minorities, but we did not specify what those measures should be.
This motion does exactly that. It completes what happened earlier this week, when we said, “Let us do this.” This motion says how. This motion is precise. It is specific. It is time-bound. It is what we need.
In addition to this, we thankfully have a number of initiatives in the House, and I would like to see them all pass and made into law.
First is Bill , which is on forced labour. It is a very important bill. Thankfully, our has said that we support it. She said that in August, when replying to Michelle Bachelet's report that there may be crimes against humanity occurring within the region, so already our foreign affairs minister has said such. This initiative started in the Senate and now is in the House. It is actually heading to committee.
We also have a second initiative on organ harvesting: Bill , which is also an important piece of legislation. Organ harvesting does occur within Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region, but not exclusively there. We know that Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, practitioners have been subject to this in the past. It is well documented.
These are a number of the initiatives that are in progress and happening right now. They are initiatives that we should all be supporting.
Our government has done a handful of things. We have implemented Magnitsky sanctions against four individuals and one entity that are active and responsible for these crimes. This was done in advance of the genocide motion of February 2021. We also have a number of advisory opinions for companies operating within Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region. As an advocate, I would like always to see that strengthened, and that must be strengthened through Bill .
I would like to highlight something. While we are speaking squarely about the crimes against humanity and genocide occurring within China, we need to be careful not to fall into unconscious bias about Asians and Chinese people. That is very important, as we advocate clearly and unambiguously, to not to fall into that. At the end, I personally have, on this issue, no qualms, if and when the government in China were to stop doing what it is doing, I personally would not speak on this issue, but only if and when China does stop doing what it is doing. However, until then, all of us, including myself, must speak on this issue.
I would like to impress upon the House how we united behind my motion. I want to share something. My seconder is Rachel Bendayan, a colleague of mine in the benches.
Madam Speaker, I thank the sponsor of this motion and everybody who is joining us for this debate. I know there are many people present in the precinct and following along online.
I have the honour of being the co-chair, along with my friend, the mover of this motion, of the parliamentary friendship group for Uighurs. That is one of many reasons that I am proud to speak in support of Motion No. 62 and express the support of the Conservative Party for this motion. I expect that when it comes to a vote, we will be able to speak united and with one voice.
I think there is a critically important role for the official opposition, which is to support the government in the areas we agree with and challenge the government when there are gaps in the response.
This issue is deeply personal for me. It is not hard to tell that I am not of Uighur background myself, but my grandmother was a Holocaust survivor. She was a Jewish child who grew up in Germany and hid out, and many of her family members were killed. I was raised with an awareness of the grievous injustice that had been visited upon her extended family. She was in a position, as a vulnerable child and a member of a persecuted minority, where she was not able to speak out about her own situation, but she survived the war because people who had a voice and had an opportunity to speak had the courage to speak out against what was happening, the injustices that were happening.
I have a big portrait on the wall in my office of Blessed Clemens von Galen, who was the bishop of the Munster area of Germany where she was. He was a bold, fearless critic of the Nazis, someone who had a position of privilege within that society and used his position to speak out against injustice.
A couple of years ago, my sister and I took a trip to Berlin. We were looking at the sites of deportation. What strikes Canadians when they go to Europe is how much closer everything is together. We are used to wide open spaces. We saw the streets through which Jews were brought to a train station and where they were being sent away, and what struck me was the apartment buildings that are close by where people, everyday Germans, would have been living. They would have been able to look down and see their former neighbours and people from their community being pushed and herded away to their deaths.
When I was there with my sister, we talked about this, and I wondered what these people were thinking, the ones who could see what was going on. Perhaps they had a mix of perspectives and knew it was wrong but were afraid in some way of the consequences of speaking out for truth and justice. What were they thinking? Why did they not do more?
At the end of the Second World War, we made a promise to my grandmother's generation of “never again”. Never again would we allow people to be slaughtered because of their ethnic or religious background. We would do everything possible to make genocide a crime and stop it everywhere. However, in the seven years I have spent as a member of Parliament, we have recognized and responded to not one but multiple cases of ongoing genocide. It is clear that we have failed to deliver on the promise we made to my grandmother's generation.
I think about those apartment buildings and the people who could see the injustice happening in front of them. Today, we have satellite imagery. We do not need to be in apartment buildings directly above what is happening. We can see the photographs. We can look at the numbers and see the precipitous drop in birth rates as a result of forced abortion, forced sterilization and systemic sexual violence targeting the Uighur community.
I owe it to my grandmother and to those like her to use the voice I have now to speak out against contemporary injustices, recognize the failure to live up to that promise of “never again” and do all we can to respond.
The first step should be a recognition of the crime of genocide, because in the history of jurisprudence following the Second World War, we tried to establish this crime of genocide and establish a responsibility to protect. Individual nations that are a party to the genocide convention have an obligation. It is not just an obligation where there is conclusive proof of genocide, but an obligation when there is evidence that genocide may be occurring.
Those obligations exist for individual states who are parties to that convention. Those obligations do not depend on whether some international body determines it to be a genocide. Those obligations are for individual states who are signatories to the genocide convention. Canada is a signatory, so Canada has obligations. We have a responsibility to act to protect when we see a genocide happening or when there is evidence to suggest that there may be a genocide happening.
This testimony was clearly given by former justice minister Irwin Cotler at the Subcommittee on International Human Rights when we studied this question. He made clear in his testimony that not one but all five of the possible conditions of the genocide convention have likely been transgressed in the case of Uighurs. The evidence was clear then, and the evidence is more clear now than it was then. When this Parliament first voted on the question of genocide recognition, it was before some of the new information that has come out since and various other tribunals that have made all the more clear the situation we are in.
The problem is that, since nations have recognized that they have an obligation to respond to genocide and that they have an obligation to protect in the case of genocide, those same nations have become reluctant to acknowledge that a genocide is taking place, because when they acknowledge that a genocide is happening, then they are legally obliged to act. However, whether or not they are willing to admit that they know, they do know because the evidence is clear. To paraphrase William Wilberforce, we may choose to look away, but in the face of the evidence, we may never again say that we did not know.
The evidence has been there, yet again this week we had a motion before the House on genocide recognition. Everyone who voted, voted in favour of genocide recognition, but the cabinet still abstained. This is extremely important because, if the government had voted in favour of that motion, it would be recognizing the legal obligations it has under the genocide convention, but it still failed to do that. I salute members of all parties who have been prepared to take that step nonetheless, but it would be that much more impactful if the cabinet, if the Government of Canada, was prepared to take that step.
The House of Commons, by the way, has led in the world. We were the first democratic legislature in the world to recognize the Uighur genocide, and many other legislatures followed. Ironically, while our legislature has led, the government has not yet taken that step.
Nonetheless, there are still so many more things that we can do and we need to do. Now we are seeing myriad private member's motions and bills coming from various parties that respond to the recognition that at least individual members have, if not the government, that a genocide is taking place. We have Motion No. 62, which seeks to advance targeted immigration measures to support Uighurs. We have various pieces of legislation, such as Bill and Bill , that seek to address forced labour. We have proposals, such Bill , which would strengthen our sanctions regime and allow parliamentary committees to nominate individuals for sanction.
We see this flurry of activity now from members of Parliament and senators using the power that we have as parliamentarians to respond to this recognition of genocide, but the ultimate power rests in the hands of the government. It is the government that has to act, even in the case of the motion before us, which is a non-binding motion that makes a recommendation to the government. It is an important tool to encourage the government to act.
Of course, the government did not have to wait for Motion No. 62, and it does not need to wait for it now. The motion contains a timeline that is fairly generous to the government, fair enough, but I would challenge the government to take up its responsibility. Individual members of Parliament are doing what we can to be a voice for the voiceless to recognize the reality, and the government must as well.
I believe that every single member of this cabinet who has looked at the evidence knows that a genocide is happening and knows that they have an obligation. It will be to their eternal shame if they do not act on that knowledge as soon as possible.
Madam Speaker, my friend from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan gave an excellent speech, and I want to commend him for it. It is always a pleasure to work with him, particularly on the file that we are discussing this evening.
I think I am kicking this off by being transpartisan. Just last week, I was saying that we have different ideas in the House. It is not always easy working with my colleagues from other parties, but I am not in the habit of playing partisan games. I even think that, most of the time, being transpartisan helps me to do my job properly. In politics, there are issues where partisanship has no place. Obviously, human rights issues fall into that category.
It will therefore come as no surprise to anyone when I say that, like my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I support Motion No. 62, which seeks to protect the Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims from China by resettling them in Canada. I know that many of my friends from the Uighur community are in the gallery this evening. I want to sincerely welcome them.
On October 21, 2020, the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights issued a statement in which it said:
The Subcommittee unequivocally condemns the persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang by the Government of China. Based on the evidence put forward during the Subcommittee hearings, both in 2018 and 2020, the Subcommittee is persuaded that the actions of the Chinese Communist Party constitute genocide as laid out in the Genocide Convention.
In a way, Motion No. 62 is a continuation of past positions taken by the House. It contains four demands that I will sum up for those who are watching us: the recognition that Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims from China have emigrated to escape repression and intimidation by the Chinese state; the recognition that many third countries face pressure from China to deport those it refers to as “critics”; the need to welcome refugees over a period of two years starting in 2024; and the need for the government to table a report with a detailed plan within 120 sitting days following the adoption of the motion.
That is the motion. I just want to reiterate this. Motion No. 62 states that Parliament determined that China's treatment of Uighurs is genocide, but, as mentioned earlier, the council of ministers cravenly abstained during the vote on the previous motion. As I speak here in the House, close to two million Uighurs and Turkic Muslims are being held in concentration camps that Chinese authorities odiously refer to as “vocational training centres”.
Mass rapes and numerous acts of torture are being committed in these camps. Women are being forcibly sterilized, adults and children are being kidnapped, and surveillance camera systems are being combined with artificial intelligence software to track Uighurs around the globe. A full-fledged campaign of cultural erasure is also being waged, including the indoctrination of prisoners and the suppression of all Uighur cultural expression.
The facts are disturbing. Parliamentarians of all parties are aware of them. I do not know how the House will vote on my colleague's motion, but one thing is certain: Nobody can plead ignorance. In fact, next to turning a blind eye, ignorance is the greatest ally of totalitarian regimes. Let us not be ignorant. Let us not be blind.
At this very moment, the most awful crime that a government can perpetrate against its own citizens is taking place: genocide. The Bloc Québécois has been at the forefront of denouncing the genocide against the Uighurs, notably by amending the February 2021 motion to force the government to demand that the Olympic Games be moved out of China. The government settled for a diplomatic boycott that had no effect.
In response to this proposal and that of the Bloc Québécois, some people told us that we should not mix politics and sport. Our response was that when we are confronted with a genocide, it is no longer a question of politics. It is a question of human rights, a question of crimes against humanity. I made that effort so that justice could be done. We did it so that justice could be done. We did it for the Uighurs, so that the crimes of China's regime would not be unjustly rewarded with the prestige of hosting the world's best athletes in its capital city.
Much like the 1936 Berlin Games, history will unfortunately remember the Beijing Olympic Winter Games as the games of shame. As both a member of Parliament and as a human being, I simply cannot accept the status quo.
My colleague's motion calls on the Government of Canada to welcome 10,000 Uighur and other Turkic Muslim refugees from China over a two-year period beginning in 2024. As I said earlier, the Bloc Québécois supports the motion.
Nevertheless, part of me still believes that this is a bit arbitrary. Why is the number of refugees set at 10,000? What bothers me about this number is that the Uighur advocacy groups that I speak with every day are saying that this is not enough, that we should take in many more.
The Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has once again applied a double standard to this situation. This is probably the result of political rather than humanitarian decisions. I cannot say for sure, which is why federal immigration programs need to be thoroughly reviewed to ensure that they are fair going forward when it comes to welcoming refugees.
I want to point out that Motion No. 62 calls on the government to table in the House, within 120 sitting days following its adoption, a report on how the refugee resettlement plan will be implemented. That is a good thing, because we know the Liberal government has a tendency to ignore motions from the House of Commons.
The government must respond quickly to make sure that the plan does not end up gathering dust on a shelf, like many immigration and refugee files do. Requiring the government to table a report is necessary and even essential, but it seems to me that 120 sitting days is much too long for members of the Uighur community to wait. The government needs to respond much more quickly than that.
At the risk of repeating myself, I want to close with a reminder. I often have the opportunity to rise in the House to speak to motions proposed by all of the parties, and I think that we are all on the same side when it comes to providing assistance, and rightly so. I would remind members that a genocide is taking place as I stand before the House today. As parliamentarians, we must work for the common good without any partisanship, and that is especially true when it comes to human rights issues. It is with that in mind that I support my colleague's motion, but I am mainly supporting it because I stand for the principles of justice, and it is high time that justice prevailed for my Uighur friends.
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank all of my colleagues who are standing in the House tonight defending the Uighur people. I agree with many of my colleagues when they say this is an issue that is beyond partisan politics. This is not an issue that we should be bickering about. This is an issue that all parliamentarians must come together for.
I was elected in 2019 and the very first committee I was put on was the international human rights subcommittee. I was put on that committee, I believe, because I have done work in international human rights for most of my career. One of the very first studies we undertook within that committee was to look at what was happening to the Uighur people, to the people in Xinjiang. It was very difficult testimony. I have said that in this House before. It was among the most difficult things I have heard, the stories of torture, of rape, of forced sterilization; of surveillance. The horrific testimony that we heard from people who had escaped was almost impossible to hear.
I have mentioned in this place before that for me, my job was to bear witness. My job was to hear that testimony. I did not have to endure what we have asked the Uighur people to endure. I was elected in 2019, so I am a relatively new parliamentarian, but I have to say that it has been three years. I have been a member for three years and I have not seen the action that we need to see to protect the Uighur people. We have not seen action by the government that would make me think it is taking this genocide seriously, that it is acting with the urgency that is required.
There are many people in this place right now that have loved ones who are still in concentration camps, that they may not know where they are, that they know have been tortured, that they know have had to endure horrific experiences. To those people, as a parliamentarian in Canada, I have to say I am sorry. I am sorry that we have let them down, that we have not done everything we can to stop the genocide that we all have agreed is happening to their people. I am sorry that we have not been strong enough, that we have not done what we needed to do.
We did declare this a genocide. This Parliament did say that this is a genocide and we do have obligations when we recognize that; every one of us. We all look at the horrific genocides that have happened in history. We said never again; never will we put the lives of people at risk this way; never will we turn a blind eye to the death of a people, and yet for three years we have been doing that. For longer than three years we have been doing that.
I am extremely proud to support the motion that has been brought forward by my colleague from Pierrefonds—Dollard. I am very happy that I have been able to work with him at the international human rights subcommittee. I am very happy that I have been able to work with members from all parties on this important work.
I am extremely proud of my colleague for the work that he has done and what he has brought forward. Of course I am concerned about the fact that when we have votes in the House, cabinet does not participate. Of course I am concerned that this is a motion. We know that a motion is not binding. We know that a motion is not legislation. It is not protecting Uighurs the way we need to. I understand this may be what he felt he was able to achieve at this point with the government, but it is not enough. It is not near enough. This does not go far enough to protect the people. As parliamentarians, as people who believe in human rights, as people who believe in human dignity, it does not go as far as we need it to go.
I will say that in terms of the immigration issues that this motion brings forward, bringing 10,000 people to Canada who are fleeing violence, of course I support that. I do not understand and never will understand why every single persecuted group in the world is not given the unlimited number that certain persecuted groups in the world are given.
I will never understand why it is unlimited Ukrainians, and I am a hundred per cent in support of unlimited Ukrainians coming to Canada to flee persecution from the Russian war in their country. However, I do not understand why it is not unlimited people coming from other countries as well. I do not understand how we can put that value in place, how we can say that for some it is unlimited and for some we have a 10,000 limit. I do not understand it.
The other piece that we really need to talk about here tonight is that this motion calls for allowing 10,000 Uighurs fleeing violence to come to Canada, but we are not doing enough to make sure that the Uighurs in concentration camps, the Uighurs in China, can actually come to Canada. They are being held in concentration camps and tortured in China, and many of them are unable to get to safety.
As a member of the international community, we also have a very big obligation to be doing what we can to ensure that the government in China is being held to account. Canada used to be a diplomatic powerhouse. We are not a giant powerhouse. We are not a massive economy or whatnot. However, we used to be seen as a convenor, a clear diplomat, a leader in terms of diplomacy. We used to have an ability to bring countries together, to bring groups forward to work together and to bring action.
Unfortunately, I do not feel like Canada has the ability to do that anymore. I feel like we have undermined our ability to do that, that we have in fact put trade at the top of all our relationships to the detriment of our relationships with regard to diplomacy, to the detriment of our relationships with development. We do not have relationships anymore that we can use to push things forward.
A perfect example for me is that the human rights council was going to have a debate on the Uighur genocide. They really did need to get the votes from countries around the world to participate. China has a massive power, and it used that massive power to cajole, bully, force and make other countries vote on its side. It used all these different tricks and tools. As a country, we do not have the ability to push back on that any longer. That is a mistake. That is a place we have failed to be able to protect the Uighur people.
I would like to see us invest in diplomacy. I would like to see us invest in building those relationships so we can bring our allies and other democracies together, and so that as a common voice we are standing up for the Uighur people. As a common voice we have more ability to put pressure on the Chinese government to ensure that it is stopping the genocide against the Uighur people.
The support from multilateral institutions is key to making sure those institutions have unfettered access. That is a key thing that Canada can do to make sure we are able to report adequately on what is happening in China and invest in support for human rights activists.
The incredible human rights activists who are part of the Uighur population, who are standing up for Uighurs around the world, have raised their voices for years to get support, and Canada could play an important role in protecting them while they fight for their people, while they fight for the people in their communities.
Finally, I have to say that as a Parliament, as a government, as a country, we must all stand and be very unified in condemning what is happening in China against the Uighur people. That includes our cabinet. That includes the government. That includes every member of the House of Commons. We need to stand together, condemn what is happening there and raise our voices to say, “No, we are not putting trade ahead of human lives. No, we are not going to say that money is more important than people. Not this time. Not anymore.”
Madam Speaker, it is with an immense sense of responsibility that I rise in the House to speak to a motion that I am sponsoring as the seconder.
I would like to take my colleagues back to 2009. Many things were happening in 2009. The world was still in the grips of the great financial crisis, Barack Obama had just been elected and the people of Iran were holding massive protests against the Islamic regime. Some things change while others do not.
I want to take my colleagues to the city of Urumqi, capital of the Uighur autonomous region of Xinjiang, also known as East Turkestan.
On July 5, 2009, a peaceful protest turned violent after the police used force to subdue the protesters. The riots lasted several weeks. These events were the impetus for the Chinese government to launch a broad campaign of expulsions, detention and torture against its Uighur citizens under the guise of combatting terrorism.
Since then, the repression has intensified considerably. The Chinese government has imprisoned millions of Uighurs, most of them over the past five years. We have seen terrifying images of internment camps built for the sole purpose of suppressing the identity of the Uighur people.
The so-called “Xinjiang papers”, published in 2019 by The New York Times, detailed China's policies of surveillance and control of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. Those who are not imprisoned find themselves under ever more intense surveillance. Forced labour and forced sterilizations are two of the main tools used to oppress the local population and erase their identity.
In keeping with its modus operandi of using coercive diplomacy, the Chinese government is exerting immense pressure on countries around the world to turn a blind eye to these grave violations in Xinjiang, and I am sorry to say that it is paying off.
Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council refused to open a debate on China's human rights violations in the region. Seventeen countries were on the right side of history, while 19 countries gave in to Chinese blackmail.
This comes a few months after China put considerable pressure on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to bury a report on China's human rights abuses. Although it was announced in September 2021 that the report was being finalized, it was only released on August 31, 2022, in the final minutes of the commissioner's tenure. It is widely speculated that the final report was watered down under pressure from China.
In a rules-based system, the United Nations should be a place where light is shone on these issues, and I find myself wondering how the international community or Canadians can trust the United Nations when, just last year, Iran was elected to the United Nations top legislative body on women's rights. There are no words.
Canada does value the international rules-based order, but Canada also has a long history of standing for what is right, even when it is uncomfortable or difficult. On this issue, there is no grey area. I am certainly heartened by the cross-partisan agreement on this issue. In February of last year, as we have said in the House, we recognized China's actions in Xinjiang as genocide. Just yesterday, the House once again voted unanimously to recognize this genocide and call for more action to protect Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in third countries who find themselves exposed to the risk of deportation back to China.
The motion before us today, brought by my colleague and friend, the hon. member for , which I proudly seconded this evening, builds on this action by calling for the admission into Canada of 10,000 Uighur and Turkic Muslims in need of protection.
This is about standing for what is right. It is also about sending a clear message to China and all authoritarian regimes around the world that Canada will not be intimidated, that Canada will continue to stand for its values no matter the consequences.
As long as China continues to violate the human rights of its people, as long as it continues to threaten Taiwan, to repress Hong Kong, as long as it continues to intimidate and harass people not only in its country, but also here on Canadian soil, and as long as it continues to empower regimes like Russia and Iran, we here in this House must continue to call China out and work with our allies to respond effectively.
With the time that I have remaining, I would like to speak on a more personal level to the reasons why I feel so strongly about this motion and about speaking up.
As a young Jewish teenager in Montreal in the 1990s, I had the privilege of meeting many Holocaust survivors. I remember those conversations vividly.
On one occasion, a woman addressed a group of us to recount her harrowing experience in concentration camps. There are pieces of her story that I hear to this day when I close my eyes at night, such as how she would keep little crusts of bread in the folds of her ragged clothes so that at night when there was a child crying she could give the child something. At the end of her presentation, I remember asking her very innocently what I could do, me, a 15-year-old girl who was deeply touched by her story. She looked at me and said, “It is up to you and your generation to make sure that this never happens again.”
On another occasion, I remember walking up on stage to meet a Holocaust survivor. He had just told his story. I do not have the strength to recount it here, but I remember feeling that I had to go up to him to get closer to him and touch his hand to see that he was made of the same flesh and bones as I was. I had to know that he was real. Again, the only thing I could think of at the time to say to this Holocaust survivor was to ask him what I could do. He looked at me with a piercing glance and said, “I need to know that you will speak up. I need to know before I die that my suffering was not in vain. I need to know that “never again” means something to you.” I looked at him and gave him, and many Holocaust survivors, my commitment that I would stand up and ensure that “never again” would mean something, and I do so today in this House.