HANSARD: Pushing for stronger action on ending persecution and genocide of Uyghurs and Turkic Muslims

House of Commons
Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims
Private Members’ Business
Debate January 30th, 2023 / 11:10 a.m.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, today we are debating Motion No. 62, a motion that focuses on the human rights abuses and genocide being carried out against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims by the government of the People's Republic of China.

I would first like to thank my colleague, the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard, for his important motion. All parliamentarians must stand firm in defence of fundamental human rights and condemn such gross violations, wherever they occur around the globe.

Canada has an obligation to uphold and defend human rights in the international community and support Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims, who are facing horrific persecution. I want to send a clear message that New Democrats support the motion, and we stand in solidarity with them in their fight for human rights.

The Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development has studied the human rights situation of the Uighurs. The subcommittee heard witness testimony documenting the mounting evidence of human rights abuses, including mass arbitrary detention, separation of children from their parents, forced sterilization, forced labour, torture and other atrocities.

It was the subcommittee's conclusion that this organized and systematic persecution, which includes the largest mass detention of a minority since the Holocaust, constitutes a genocide, as per the genocide convention.

Back in 2018, the subcommittee on international human rights stated:

if the international community does not condemn the human rights abuses in Xinjiang province by the Government of China, a precedent will be set and these methods will be adopted by other regimes. Complacency is entrenched by a lack of access to Xinjiang; by the lack of free press; and through the silencing and harassment of Uyghurs living abroad. 

Sadly, since then, human rights abuses have only intensified, and the situation has become even more urgent, demanding greater action. New Democrats have pushed the Canadian Parliament to recognize the treatment of Uighurs as genocide and have called on the government to use every tool at its disposal to help end these abuses. On February 22, 2021, the House unanimously recognized the actions of the Chinese government against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims as genocide, despite the Prime Minister and members of cabinet abstaining from the vote.

Recognizing and fully condemning this genocide was a critical first step, but Canada can and must do more to take a stand against the horrific human rights abuses. Motion No. 62 recognizes that Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims who have fled to third countries face intimidation to return to China, where they face serious risks of detention and other atrocities. The motion also recognizes that many third countries face continued diplomatic and economic pressure from China to detain and deport Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims, meaning that even in other countries, they are not safe. 

Importantly, in light of this grave situation, the motion calls on the Canadian government to urgently leverage IRCC’s refugee and humanitarian resettlement program to expedite the entry of 10,000 Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in need of protection. Urgent action is needed.

The NDP fully supports Motion No. 62. However, I will be introducing an amendment to ensure that Uighurs are admitted to Canada via a special immigration measure. New Democrats believe Canada should increase the total numbers of vulnerable people we welcome to our country, including those from East Turkestan, Ukraine, Afghanistan and other places where people are subject to the worst violations of their human rights.

This is consistent with the subcommittee’s recommendations, which call for the creation of “an exceptional refugee stream” to expedite entry for Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims. The creation of an emergency refugee program was also among the key recommendations advocated by the World Uyghur Congress. We should not be pitting communities against each other by robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Further, while the NDP supports this important motion, there is much more work that needs to be done to put an end to the persecution of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims.

Human rights advocacy organizations have been tireless in their work calling for greater action and highlighting the need for the Government of Canada to take a stronger stance for human rights. Some of them are here today. 

Groups such as the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project have called on the government to implement the recommendations of the subcommittee report. One of these recommendations is that the Department of Justice develop a comprehensive human rights due diligence law that would compel 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.

Alarmingly, global supply chains are tainted with forced labour. Consequently, advocates have called on the government to strengthen trade restrictions to prohibit the importation of goods manufactured in the Uighur region. Products sold in Canadian supermarkets and stores are being made by Uighur forced labour. This includes products such as bath towels, quilts and clothes, which are made with cotton from the Uighur region. Corporations such as Nestlé, Del Monte and Unilever have also purchased tomatoes from Chinese companies in the Uighur region.

China is one of only eight states that has not yet ratified the International Labour Organization's convention on ending forced labour. Between 2017 and 2019, it is estimated that more than 80,000 Uighurs were forcibly transferred out of the Uighur region to work in factories across China. In 2020 alone, reports revealed that 83 global companies were indirectly or directly involved in employing Uighur workers under forced labour. 

A recently released report on the automotive sector has revealed the use of Uighur forced labour throughout the supply chains of major auto manufacturers. The report found that more than 100 international automotive parts or car manufacturers have some exposure to goods made with forced Uighur labour.

It is completely unacceptable that companies are allowed to profit off of persecution, that supply chains involve forced labour, and that the products we purchase are manufactured using forced labour.

Advocates are also calling on Canada to push for an end to the arbitrary detention of Uighur human rights defenders in China. Canada should be working with civil society organizations to advocate for the release of those human rights defenders who have been imprisoned. 

New Democrats have also called for sanctions to be imposed on government of China officials responsible for the perpetration of grave human rights abuses. This is also consistent with the recommendations of the subcommittee on international human rights.

The creation of a special immigration measure to expeditiously bring Uighurs and Turkic Muslims to safety is an essential part of Canada's role in defending human rights and taking a firm stand to denounce this ongoing genocide.

I move:

That the motion be amended: 

a) in paragraph (c), by adding after the words “into Canada” the following: “and ensure corresponding additional immigration levels in the refugee streams so that other persecuted members in the global community seeking safety in Canada are not impacted”; and 

b) in paragraph (d), by replacing the word “120” with the word “100”. 

I think that this is essential, if we are going to move forward, as a first step toward supporting Uighurs. It is essential for Canada to take this action to show leadership in the international community.

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Carol Hughes

It is my duty to inform hon. members that pursuant to Standing Order 93(3), no amendments may be proposed to a private member's motion or to the motion for second reading for a private member's bill unless the sponsor of the item indicates his or her consent. 

Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard if he consents to this amendment being moved.

Sameer Zuberi Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Madam Speaker, yes, I consent.

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