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Roméo Dallaire urges Canada to act on 'genocide' in China

'Self-interest' is getting in the way of Canada's obligation to defend human rights in China: Dallaire

Brennan MacDonald, Vassy Kapelos | CBC News

Retired Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire is urging the Canadian government to act in response to the "genocide" being committed by the Chinese government against its Muslim minority Uighur population.

"When there is massive abuses of human rights by a state ... we all have the responsibility to go in and protect them. We signed up to it. The world signed up to it," Dallaire said Wednesday in an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

Dallaire, who led the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, said there are many avenues Canada and the international community could pursue to respond to China's actions, adding that the use of force must be a last resort.

Dallaire is urging the Canadian government to build a coalition of other like-minded middle powers to call out China over its abuses and build a pressure campaign to influence China's actions.

The comments from the former peacekeeping commander came just one day after an independent legal report concluded that the Chinese government is conducting an ongoing genocide in Xinjiang.

The Canadian government says it will be reviewing the report, but does not appear ready to declare that China is guilty of genocide.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government have been reluctant to use the word genocide, arguing that more evidence from independent investigations is needed.

Last month, the House of Commons voted to label China's persecution of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims a genocide.

A substantial majority of MPs — including most of the Liberals who participated — voted in favour of a Conservative motion that says China's actions in its western Xinjiang region meet the definition of genocide set out in the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau formally abstained from the vote, while Prime Minister Trudeau and the rest of his cabinet failed to show up for the vote.

Dallaire said "self-interest" is getting in the way of the government's obligation to act.

"Self-interest and a lack of wanting to take the risk of holding accountable great nations who do horrible things is still prevalent," said Dallaire. "You're either a great nation that believes in its values and in what its flag stands for, and what so many have died to defend it ... you're either that, or you're not.

"I think there is a need for a very reinforced diplomatic corps in this country to show the innovation, to show the gumption, to show the ability to go beyond the call of a nation that we are and ... punch way above our weight because we're not doing that enough now, if at all.

"I think we did in the past and I would love to see our diplomatic corps regain that stature and help guide the politicians down this road."

China has detained an estimated 1 to 2 million Uighurs in China in what the government calls 're-education centres.'

The Chinese government has denied accusations of genocide and human rights abuses. The Chinese ambassador to Canada has accused his country's critics of fabricating the "lie of the century."

In October 2020, the House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights concluded that China is committing a genocide, saying that the Uighur population is facing mass detention, forced labour, pervasive state surveillance, physical, psychological and sexual abuse, forced sterilizations and forced abortions.

Given the ongoing human rights abuses against the Uighurs, Dallaire said Canada should not participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. "There's no logic to it," he said. "There's not continuity."

"If in 1936, we had known the extent of how the Jewish community and other communities were being abused already by that regime, would we have given in to participating at an event that is supposed to provide a high-water mark for a nation in the face of the world? I think probably we wouldn't. So why are participating in this one?"

© CBC News

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