Liberal Cabinet’s Abstention From Genocide Vote Echoes History

February 24, 2021 Updated: February 24, 2021


On Jan. 24, 1939, Liberal MP Pierre Gauthier issued a statement on what was then the intensifying plight of the Jewish people under Nazi rule. With remarkable callousness, he downplayed the need for Canada to do something about it, particularly regarding the question of accepting refugees, citing the country’s economic interests. It is an astonishing document.

“No doubt the systematic persecution endured by the Jewish race in Germany and Austria is bound to move us to pity, but precisely, the dominion government does not want this problem to grow into the question of sentiment,” Gauthier wrote. “Both wisdom and properly understood charity require the government to look first after the well-being of our Canadian population.”

In June that year, the MS St. Louis and its 907 Jewish refugees seeking a safe haven from the dangerous situation in Europe were denied entry to Canada.

Stories of how Canadian public figures around the time of the Holocaust treated the reports of Jewish persecution inevitably come to mind when observing contemporary events. For despite all the constant commemorations and “never again” refrains, the experiences of the past seem to not have been as edifying as one would hope. When it comes down to it, some political leaders today remain just as hesitant to do what is right in the face of the Beijing regime’s extensive campaigns of systematic barbarism.

The Trudeau cabinet’s decision this week to abstain from voting on the Conservative motion to recognize as genocide the regime’s crimes against the Uyghur minority group is one of its more shameful acts on the China question. The vote, in which Liberal backbenchers participated freely, led to Parliament establishing the clear consensus that Beijing’s crimes do constitute genocide, with the unanimous result of 266-0.

Though only a non-binding motion, this is an illuminating moment, as it demonstrates where the majority of parliamentarians elected by the public stand when it comes to China’s conduct.

Participating in the proceedings on behalf of the government, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau announced the abstention and followed it up with the tiresome caveat that the government remains “deeply disturbed by horrific reports” of the human rights violations in Xinjiang and takes the claims of genocide very seriously. He then restated the government’s naive insistence that Canada must work with others to ensure that these allegations can be “investigated by an independent international body of legal experts” who could impartially “observe and report on the situation first-hand.”

The Chinese Communist Party’s response to the vote should, once again, give those in government an idea of how co-operative the regime would be in any attempt to investigate these allegations and find evidence finally satisfactory enough for the government to make a judgment. On Feb. 23, the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa issued a statement that was yet another masterpiece of Maoist agitprop and genocide denialism.

Unsurprisingly, the statement called out Canada for its “hypocrisy,” saying Canada should “reflect deeply on the miserable experience of its indigenous people.” It denied genocide with the claim that the Uyghur population has increased at a rate far more rapid than that of the whole population of Xinjiang between 2010 and 2018. And in classic CCP fashion, the statement accused Canadian politicians of manipulating “Xinjiang-related issues under the pretext of human rights” to interfere in “China’s internal affairs and earn political capital by playing the China card.”

The bald-face denials come despite statistics showing that Uyghur-majority regions have suffered some of most significant declines in birth rates across China due to forced sterilization and abortion, falling by as much as 24 percent in 2019, according to The Associated Press. In addition, there are credible allegations of Uyghurs held in massive camps being tortured, sexually abused, forced to perform slave labour, and killed for their organs, similar to other persecuted groups such as Falun Gong.

But in the name of action on climate change or whatever the excuse of the day is, this is whom we must continue to engage with for the sake of loftily defined “Canadian interests.”

To their shame, politicians dismissed the urgency of the Nazis’ persecution of Jews out of naivete regarding Hitler’s regime and a narrow understanding of what Canada’s priorities were.

Similar equivocation toward the seriousness of the Uyghurs’ plight is ironically being displayed by the Liberal leadership who, with their constant pledge to extinguish hate wherever it persists, probably believe that had they been around in the Nazi era, they would have gallantly rallied the effort to confront Hitler.

But faced with a situation similar to that of the1930s, they have continually failed to step up when it actually matters.

Shane Miller is a political writer based in London, Ontario.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.