Madam Speaker, today, I rise as the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, the vice-chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons, and the vice-chair of the Canada-Uighur Parliamentary Friendship Group, but, above all, I rise as a human being who cares about other human beings, no matter who they are or where they live on this planet.
It is important to know why we are having this debate today, despite what government members might say, since they do not agree on the reason for this debate. Every other member of the House knows why we are having this important debate.
Why are we here? We are here because a report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development has been tabled. It is important to know what it says, because these are the words that will guide our subsequent actions. This report, which is barely a paragraph long, says the following:
That the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development strongly condemn the unacceptable sanctions imposed by the People's Republic of China against one of the Committee's Vice Chairs, the Member of Parliament for Wellington—Halton Hills, and the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights which represent an affront to Canada's democracy and parliamentary system; as parliamentarians, we will continue to actively denounce human rights violations and breaches of international law in keeping with our respect for basic human rights; and that this motion be reported to the House.
When I rise in the House, I often ask who we work for. We should also ask ourselves what we are working for. In this case, we are working for international human rights, for those who are experiencing genocide. We have evidence. The Subcommittee on International Human Rights did studies in 2018 and 2020, and the evidence is mounting around the world. The BBC did reports on this issue and is no longer allowed to broadcast in China. We know a genocide is happening. The question is not whether it is happening, but how to put a stop to it.
I will read the statement that the subcommittee made on October 21, 2020, which went somewhat unnoticed. It says, and I quote:
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.
There are some Liberal members on that committee, which, as we know, does not operate by vote but by consensus. That means that all of the members of the committee agreed with the statement that was made. A press conference was even held, even though the media did not really pick up on it.
I would like to remind members of the recommendations that the subcommittee made and that were adopted on March 12, 2021, by the standing committee it reports to, namely the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. This is important, and I want to make sure that the House is aware of the recommendations that the subcommittee made to it.
Here is the first recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada, in coordination with international allies, condemn the Government of the People's Republic of China's use of concentration camps to unjustly detain Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims.
Here is the second recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that Global Affairs Canada coordinate an international campaign calling on the Government of the People's Republic of China to immediately release unjustly detained Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims from its concentration camps.
Here is the third recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that Global Affairs Canada coordinate an international effort to pressure the Government of the People's Republic of China to allow independent observers unfettered access to Xinjiang to evaluate the situation of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims.
Here is the fourth recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that Global Affairs Canada enhance its import control mechanisms to ensure products made with forced labour are not entering the Canadian market. This should include strong punitive measures for individuals and companies that benefit from the use of forced labour.
Here is the fifth recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada enhance the mandate of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise to ensure the office has the power to conduct independent investigations, the authority to compel documents and testimony from companies and their executives, and the resources to investigate alleged human rights abuses.
Here is the sixth recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that the Department of Justice develop a comprehensive human rights due diligence law that compels businesses to respect the most current international human rights standards across their global operations and supply chains and be held accountable for harms caused in relation to their operations.
Here is the seventh recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that Global Affairs Canada undertake a review of Canadian equipment and technologies exported to China to better understand how they are being utilized by end-users in that country. Further to that review, the Government of Canada should implement measures to ensure Canadian individuals, companies and public bodies are not supplying information or technologies that could be used in support of the violation of fundamental human rights.
Here is the eighth recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that Public Safety Canada systematically track cases of harassment, by Chinese authorities, of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims living in Canada, as well as individuals and groups advocating on their behalf. The Subcommittee also urges the Government of Canada to respond punitively to attempts to repress freedom of expression in Canada and urges it to continue raising the issue with the Government of the People's Republic of China officials.
Here is the ninth recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada use existing refugee programs and create an exceptional stream to expedite entry into Canada for Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in need of protection, especially human rights defenders, because they are fleeing persecution in Xinjiang and elsewhere. The Canada Border Services Agency should suspend the removal of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims to China or other states where they are at risk of deportation.
Here is the 10th recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that Global Affairs Canada use all the tools at its disposal to secure the release of Huseyin Celil, including but not limited to the appointment of a special envoy specifically tasked with seeking his release and return.
Here is the 11th recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that the House of Commons adopt a motion recognizing the Government of the People's Republic of China's persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang as constitutive of genocide.
This was done, but without the support of the executive of the government.
Here is the 12th recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada declare the Government of the People's Republic of China's oppression of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang as constitutive of genocide. As such, the Government of Canada should also condemn the Government of the People's Republic of China for its organized and systematic persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang.
This has not been done.
Here is the 13th recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada support the request of Canada's ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council to gather evidence and investigate the Government of the People's Republic of China's persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang.
Here is the 14th recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada call for the establishment of an impartial and independent United Nations mechanism to monitor and report on the human rights situation of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang.
Finally, here is the 15th recommendation:
The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada apply targeted sanctions under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act against officials responsible for committing gross violations of human rights against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang. The Government of Canada should also encourage international allies and like-minded countries to pursue similar sanctions.
These words are of immense importance. However, they elicited zero response from the government and its executive, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister. Every time we asked them a question in the House, they answered that they were working on it and that they are worried about the situation.
Being worried is all well and good, but we are well past that now.
On Saturday, the Uighurs will be protesting in front of the Canadian Olympic Committee's offices, calling for the relocation of the Olympic Games. That is the idea behind the motion moved by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, which we amended. The government is refusing to comment. It is still worried.
The Uighur genocide started to get more media attention when it became associated with the idea of moving the 2022 Olympics out of Beijing. Suddenly, the media decided to take a closer look at the issue. However, the government is still telling us it will not comment, even though Liberal members who are not part of the executive voted in favour of that motion. I asked my colleague about this earlier. I wanted to know if a Liberal backbencher's vote is worth less than that of a member who is in the executive of the Liberal government.
It is a valid question. If parliamentary secretaries, ministers and the Prime Minister decide not to comment on the issue, what does that tell us as MPs? It tells us that there is a lack of courage, of political will. It tells us that, once again, our government is knuckling under to what can only be described as the tyrannical regime currently in power in China.
We are speaking with Uighurs every day. We are writing to them every day. My Conservative and New Democrat colleagues are doing it, and so are my Liberal colleagues, the ones who are not part of the executive. How can anyone look themselves in the mirror knowing that they are part of a government that cannot call a spade a spade?
If we are to address a problem, we need to be able to name it. The Prime Minister is unable to name the problem. This is not a minor problem. It is a genocide. Genocide is the most serious crime that a human being can perpetrate against another human being. The evidence of this genocide is there, all over the world. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs cannot bring themselves to say the word “genocide”, even though members of their own party can.
We need to ask ourselves again: What are we working for, and who are we working for? When I get up in the morning, I do not have any trouble looking myself in the mirror. I, too, am on China's blacklist. Honestly, that does bother me, because I have no ties to China and no intention of travelling there in the near future. However, some members of the House who were put on that list have family in China. Perhaps they would have liked to go visit those family members because they are concerned about them, but those members stood up and took that risk. They can look themselves in the mirror every morning.
We wrote an open letter. I think I am pretty lucky, because that open letter was signed by members from all parties of the House, members of the Quebec National Assembly, and Jean-Luc Brassard, who won an Olympic gold medal for Canada in 1994. They signed this letter calling for the Beijing Olympics to be relocated if China continues its genocidal campaign.
Everyone is telling me that I am crazy because it is impossible to relocate the Olympics with just one year's notice. My answer is that where there is a will, there is a way. That is the first thing. Scientists created a vaccine in short order. Everyone told them it was impossible, yet they did it.
Politicians only need the political will. It could have been done. The Tokyo Olympic Games were delayed one year because of the pandemic. Everyone agreed, and no one asked questions when it was announced that the Tokyo Olympics would be postponed for one year. When the Olympics are delayed because of a pandemic, everyone is all right with it, but when we go after the 2022 Olympics because of a genocide, I am told it cannot be done.
Where is the logic in that? If we were able to do it for Tokyo, why can we not do it for Beijing? It is not a pandemic, it is a genocide. Is that not important enough?
I do not understand why any members would be against this idea, given that they get up in the morning telling themselves that they work for their voters and for what is right. What is right is to fight against a tyrannical regime and protect the people who are being oppressed by this regime.
Personally, I am happy, because when I look myself in the mirror, my conscience is clear. There are members on the other side of the House who are going to have to ask themselves a question of vital importance: Why do we enter politics?
Politicians always have to make difficult decisions. They are difficult to make because obviously we know full well what kind of country China is. We know that it is a force to be reckoned with, a global power, and no one wants to upset a global power, considering the economic repercussions. There are also the two Michaels and Huawei to think of.
Do people go into politics expecting it to be easy? No, people go into politics knowing they will have to make difficult decisions. Still, they must be fair. Just because it is hard does not mean it is not fair.
The Prime Minister needs to take a hard look in the mirror. This government needs to look in the mirror and decide whether it will name the problem or not. Once it names the problem, it will be a lot easier to tackle it.
A genocide is currently being carried out in Xinjiang against Uighurs and Turkic Muslims. The government needs to name it and stand up to China. I hope the Liberals will be able to take a good hard look at themselves once they do.