Terry Glavin: Of course Trudeau refused to say 'genocide.' He has zero credibility on China
That the pantomime has worked so successfully and for so long is as disturbing as it is remarkable, but at last, the jig is up. The last straw will be remembered as Trudeau’s equivocations and dissembling about the Xi regime’s savage oppression of the Muslim peoples of Xinjiang, which Trudeau invited us all to interrogate this week as a discursive problematization of the word “genocide.”
The subject has come up only because of a growing public alarm over the Trudeau government’s official indifference to the prospect of Canadian athletes carrying Canadian flags into the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, now that the fact of genocide in Xinjiang is being conclusively proved among the many crimes that have cemented the Chinese Communist Party’s reputation as the world’s most enthusiastic abuser of fundamental human rights norms.
“We are extremely concerned about that and have highlighted our concerns many times. But when it comes to the application of the very specific word ‘genocide’, we simply need to ensure that all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed in the processes before a determination like that is made,” Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s a word that is extremely loaded and is certainly something that we should be looking at in the case of the Uyghurs.”
Just which official agency or government department might be tasked with the I-dotting and T-crossing calligraphy Trudeau would require in his newfound concern with legal precision when it comes to the word “genocide” was not immediately evident. The international human rights scholar and former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, who has suffered no such qualms in identifying genocide as the crime the Xi regime is committing against Xinjiang’s Muslim Uyghurs, has suggested Trudeau could seek advice by way of a direct reference to the Supreme Court of Canada.
But it seems unlikely that this would adequately serve Trudeau’s purpose of punting a decision about Canada’s participation in the Olympics down the road aways, and in any case, Ottawa has outsourced the decision to the Canada Olympic Committee, and the COC says it’s all about “diplomacy,” which is Ottawa’s responsibility. So there matters sit, with Trudeau stroking his chin, feebly supported by a dwindling coterie of Liberals encouraging us all to deconstruct and unpack the term “genocide” and otherwise pity the poor Canadian athletes who so desperately yearn to shine at the Winter Games. And on the other side: more than 180 human rights organizations, the Biden administration, several Canadian Chinese diaspora groups, Tibetan exiles and Hongkonger solidarity activists, the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party, the Green Party, most of the Bloc Quebecois and several prominent Liberals, including several MPs, and the entirety of the International Human Rights Subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
So it’s taking the spectre of genocide — a real-world genocide that meets several conditions laid out in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide — to threaten a rupture in the practice that has served the Trudeau government so well in managing public opinion when it comes to its dealings with China. Ordinarily, this is how it works:
A wave of public disgust threatens to overwhelm Ottawa’s practice of accommodating Beijing and the interests of Canada’s deeply-embedded China lobby. Ottawa responds by putting on a show of action, always of course in Canada’s national interest, in line with Canada’s values, in consultation with Canada’s allies and so on.
Before anybody notices it’s all been smoke, mirrors and deftly-crafted talking points, it’s on to the next exercise in message-management.
Just this week, for instance, the Trudeau government put on a great show, two years in the making, as we approached the 800th day of Beijing’s spiteful and sadistic abduction and imprisonment of the Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, which was clearly in retaliation for Canada’s detention of Huawei billionaire and Communist Party darling Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant arising from 13 counts of fraud and sanctions evasion.
The newly-anointed foreign affairs minister, Marc Garneau, announced a new international coalition against acts of “hostage diplomacy” of precisely the sort Beijing has committed in the case of Kovrig and Spavor. Garneau likened the initiative to the 1997 Ottawa landmines treaty and the all-for-one clause in the NATO constitution. But, strangely, China wasn’t even mentioned in Garneau’s talking points, and the closer you look at the 58-nation declaration the more it resembles a glorified petition to the effect that UN member states shouldn’t take hostages, and at best it might end up as an addendum to the already-existing 1979 UN Convention Against the Taking of Hostages.
Then there was all the fuss last year about the measures Canada was taking in response to Beijing’s immolation of Hong Kong’s autonomy and its evisceration of Hong Kong’s democratic movement. Ottawa boasted that Canada was the first to terminate its extradition treaty with Hong Kong — as if there was a judge anywhere in Canada who would extradite a dissident Hongkonger to face the draconian National Security Law Beijing has imposed there.
And last year’s announcement that Canada would accept refugee applications from Hongkongers was a decision made not by Ottawa but by the independent Immigration Refugee Board. And the changes to immigration rules advertised as making it easier for Hongkongers to flee to Canada in fact contained nothing of the kind. And the new rules purportedly aimed at prohibiting the products from slave labour in Xinjiang contained no penalties for corporations that traffic in slave goods. It hasn’t mattered that the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service has warned repeatedly that China generally and Huawei particularly pose grave threats to Canada’s national security, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council continues to fund Huawei’s research collaborations with Canadian universities.
While Canada has enacted Magnitsky sanctions against human rights abusers in Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, South Sudan, Nicaragua, Russia, Myanmar and Belarus, not a single Chinese official faces Canadian sanctions for any of the atrocious transgressions of international human rights covenants the Xi regime is committing at such a dizzying pace it’s almost impossible to keep up.
After the public outrage erupting from Beijing’s kidnapping of Kovrig and Spavor, Ottawa promised extensive public consultations for an entirely new framework for dealing with China. The promise was reiterated more than once last year, even though nothing of the kind was in the offing. This week, Garneau conceded that the old “policy,” however it might be politely described, might be “fine-tuned.” That’s it.
But it’s hard to “fine-tune” genocide, which the Xi regime is carrying out insanely, methodically and brutally in Xinjiang. Concentration camps. A gulag of slave factories. The obliteration of ancient mosques and holy sites. Forced sterilization. The criminalization of Islamic religious practices. The separation of children from their parents. The mass experiment in all-encompassing, ever-present surveillance. Last but not least brutal organ harvesting on live prisoners.
Kicking all this down the road in the hope that Canadians won’t notice that their government is content to go along with this barbarism won’t work anymore.
The jig is up.