Irwin Cotler: The lessons of the Holocaust remain sadly relevant today

Good piece, connecting the Holocaust to other genocides, war crimes and human rights violations, both historic and contemporary:

This year’s Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day was a particularly poignant historical moment of remembrance and reminder, of bearing witness, of learning and acting upon the universal lessons of history and the Holocaust.

I write in the aftermath of the 90th anniversary of the establishment in 1933 by Nazi Germany of the infamous Dachau concentration camp — where thousands were deported to during Kristallnacht — reminding us that antisemitism is toxic to democracy, an assault on our common humanity, and as we’ve learned only too painfully and too well, while it begins with Jews, it doesn’t end with Jews.

I write also in the aftermath of the 81st anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, convened by the Nazi leadership to address “The final solution to the Jewish question” — the blueprint for the annihilation of European Jewry — which was met with indifference and inaction by the international community.

I write also on the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the most heroic Jewish and civilian uprising during the Holocaust, which was preceded by the deportation of 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka death camp. There is a straight line between Wannsee and Warsaw; between the indifference of one and the courage of the other.

I write also amidst the international drumbeat of evil, reflected and represented in the unprovoked and criminal Russian invasion of Ukraine, underpinned by war crimes, crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide; the increasing assaults by China on the rules-based international order, including mass atrocities targeting the Uyghurs; the Iranian regime’s brutal and massive repression of the “women, life, freedom” protests; the mass atrocities targeting the Rohingya, Afghans and Ethiopians; and the increasing imprisonment of human rights defenders like Russian patriot and human rights hero Vladimir Kara-Murza — the embodiment of the struggle for freedom and a critic of the invasion of Ukraine — sentenced this week to 25 years in prison for telling the truth, a re-enactment of the Stalinist dictum of “give us the person and we will find the crime.”

And I write amidst an unprecedented global resurgence of antisemitic acts, incitement, and terror — of antisemitism as the oldest, longest, most enduring, and most dangerous of hatreds, a virus that mutates and metastasizes over time, but which is grounded in one foundational, historical, generic, conspiratorial trope: namely, that Jews, the Jewish people, and Israel are the enemy of all that is good and the embodiment of all that is evil.

And so at this important historical juncture, we should ask ourselves what we have learned over the past 80 years and what lessons we must act on, including the following:

• The danger of forgetting the Holocaust and the imperative of remembrance — as Nobel laureate Prof. Elie Wiesel put it, “a war against the Jews in which not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were targeted victims” — of horrors too terrible to be believed but not too terrible to have happened.

• The demonization and dehumanization of the Jew as prologue and justification for their mass murder.

• The mass murder of six million Jews — 1.5 million of whom were children — and of millions of non-Jews, remembering them not as abstract statistics, but as individuals who each had a name.

• The danger of antisemitism — the oldest, longest, most enduring of hatreds — and most lethal. If the Holocaust is a paradigm for radical evil, antisemitism is a paradigm for radical hate that must be combatted.

• The dangers of Holocaust denial and distortion — of assaults on truth and memory, and the whitewashing of the worst crimes in history.

• The danger of state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide. The Holocaust, as the Supreme Court of Canada put it, “did not begin in the gas chambers, it began with words.”

• The danger of silence in the face of evil — where silence incentivizes the oppressor, never helping the victim — and our responsibility always to protest against injustice.

• The dangers of indifference and inaction in the face of mass atrocity and genocide. What makes the Holocaust and the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda so horrific are not only the horrors themselves. What makes them so horrific is that they were preventable. Nobody could say we did not know. Just as today, with regard to mass atrocities being perpetrated against the Uyghurs, the Rohingya, and the Ukrainians — nobody can say we do not know. We know and we must act.

• The Trahison des Clercs — the betrayal of the elites — doctors and scientists, judges and lawyers, religious leaders and educators, engineers and architects. Nuremberg crimes were the crimes of Nuremberg elites. Our responsibility, therefore, is always to speak truth to power.

• The danger of cultures of impunity, and the corresponding responsibility to bring war criminals to justice. There must be no sanctuary for hate, no refuge for bigotry, no immunity for these enemies of humankind.

• The danger of the vulnerability of the powerless and the powerlessness of the vulnerable. The responsibility to give voice to the voiceless and to empower the powerless. In a word, the test of a just society is how it treats its most vulnerable.

And so, the abiding and enduring lesson: We are each, wherever we are, the guarantors of each other’s destiny. May this day be not only an act of remembrance, which it is, but a remembrance to act, which it must be — on behalf of our common humanity.

National Post

Irwin Cotler is Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University, International Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights, and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. He is Canada’s first Special Envoy for Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism.

Source: Irwin Cotler: The lessons of the Holocaust remain sadly relevant today

Feds under fire for deferring decision to declare China’s actions against Uyghurs as genocide

As MPs across the partisan spectrum question why the Canadian government has yet to declare that the Chinese government’s repression of Uyghurs constitutes genocide, Global Affairs says an international court or tribunal must be the one to make the declaration, but international law experts say that’s not the case.

As a state party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, more commonly known as the Genocide Convention, Canada has an obligation to declare a genocide is occurring when one is taking place, say international law experts, and deferring such judgement to an international court is nothing more than an excuse to not act.

MPs on the House Foreign Affairs Committee questioned Global Affairs officials on March 28 as to why the government hasn’t made a declaration of genocide more than a year after the House of Commons voted unanimously to declare that a genocide is being committed by China against its Uyghur population and other Turkic Muslims. The non-binding vote, which passed with 266 votes in favour and none against on Feb. 22, 2021, had the support of all parties, including 87 Liberal MPs. Cabinet members, however, abstained from the vote.

A March 2021 report from the Subcommittee on International Human Rights concluded that China is committing genocide as defined under the Genocide Convention. The report was adopted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In it, the subcommittee called on the government to declare the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghurs an act of genocide.

Beijing has long denied that a genocide of Uyghurs is taking place in Xinjiang.

Bloc Québécois MP Stéphane Bergeron (Montarville, Que.), his party’s foreign affairs critic, said in French that Global Affairs has “strangely enough” refused to acknowledge that genocide is taking place.

“It’s as if everything that is obvious for many people, including for Parliamentarians in Canada, was not for Global Affairs,” he said at the committee on March 28, asking what is stopping Canada from recognizing that a genocide is taking place.

Global Affairs official Jennie Chen, executive director for Greater China Policy and Coordination, said a declaration of genocide is one for the government to make, and officials will provide advice to ministers “when that time comes.”

But later in the committee hearing, Global Affairs director general and deputy legal adviser Carolyn Knobel said a “determination of whether a situation constitutes a genocide must be done by a competent international court or a tribunal, bearing in mind the complex legal thresholds that are involved.”

Knobel suggested that finding “specific intent” to commit genocide is “key” to making such a determination. She said without a finding of “specific intent,” breaches of international law would instead amount to crimes against humanity, or war crimes.

The Hill Times asked Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly’s (Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Que.) office whether the government believes that only an international court or tribunal can determine whether a genocide has taken place. A spokesperson for Global Affairs responded on behalf of the minister’s office.

“We have the responsibility to work with others in the international community in ensuring that any allegations of genocide are investigated by an independent international body of legal experts,” spokesperson Christelle Chartrand said in an email, noting that Canada is “deeply disturbed” by reports of human rights violations in Xinjiang.

Chartrand said Canada has “repeatedly” called on Beijing to allow the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Procedures to have “immediate, unfettered, and meaningful access to Xinjiang.” 

In 2018, the Canadian government recognized Myanmar’s persecution against the Rohingya as an act of genocide through a motion in the House, which was supported by cabinet ministers. No international court or tribunal had made that determination at the time. A case under the Genocide Convention is currently before the International Court of Justice.

Speaking at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 24, Joly said Canada takes allegations of genocide “very seriously, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur region,” noting that was a reason Canada did not send elected officials to the Beijing Olympics in February.

The U.S. government under then-president Donald Trump declared in 2021 that a genocide was taking place in Xinjiang. That determination has been upheld by the Biden administration.

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Hill Times that the government’s delay in recognizing the situation as a genocide is “totally unacceptable.”

He said when the Subcommittee on International Human Rights conducted its study, it heard from many international law experts, including former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, who made the case that nation states that are parties to the Genocide Convention have an obligation to recognize genocide when it is happening and to discharge their obligations under the convention.

“Canada has been failing to live up to its obligations under the Genocide Convention. It is an obfuscation and a denial of our responsibilities for the government to suggest that we shouldn’t act unless or until there is some determination by some to-be-identified international body,” he said. “Fundamentally, Canada’s responsibilities as a state party under the Genocide Convention are clear: it is to recognize and respond to genocide when it has happened, not to wait for somebody else to tell us first.”

Genuis said the government’s lack of determination to date is a decision in itself.

“The effect of continually saying that they are thinking about it is to not act,” he said.

Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi (Pierrefonds-Dollard, Que.), who subbed in at the March 28 committee meeting, told The Hill Times that while he understands why the government wants to wait on an international court to determine whether genocide is taking place, he stands by the subcommittee’s designation and his support for the House motion to recognize genocide.

“I believe that where we should be going as a country is to recognize that genocide is occurring,” he said, noting it would be “good” if the Canadian government follows the U.S. government’s lead.

Zuberi said in their testimony, Global Affairs officials recognized that hundreds of thousands of children are being separated from families, which he said is “one of the key elements of genocide.”

“So, I’m hopeful that we will land there as a country,” he said, adding that each country should make its own legal determination of whether a genocide is taking place. “Our determination doesn’t necessarily rest on those international [bodies] to determine genocide is in fact occurring.”

In the meantime, he said more can be done to prevent goods made with forced labour from entering the Canadian market.

Experts dispute the government’s position that it’s up to international courts and tribunals to determine whether a situation is genocide.

“[The government doesn’t] want to act. Their position is ‘we don’t know—we can’t really say, we’re not really sure, and therefore business as unusual. We can trade [and] and we can do all sorts of things.’ They’re avoiding their obligation,” said John Packer, the University of Ottawa’s Human Rights Research and Education Centre director.

“The Genocide Convention actually prescribes that states are supposed to act to prevent,” he said, noting that includes cases where there is an active genocide, or a risk of genocide. “If the argument of the government is that we can’t do anything until there’s a determination by the court of law, that’s post facto. That means you never have prevention. … ‘Never again’ becomes ‘forever always,’ because you’ve missed the whole raison d’etre of the thing.”

Packer said there is no provision or law that dictates that an international court must be the body to declare whether a genocide is taking place, and said a state must make that determination itself before bringing an action before an international court.

“In order to bring a case, you must allege a case, and to allege a case in international law means that you must determine that there is a breach,” he said.

International human rights lawyer Sarah Teich, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, echoed Packer, saying the Canadian government has an obligation to act.

“If you look at the Genocide Convention, nowhere does it say that that an international court must declare genocide before it can do anything,” she said, noting that Canada, as a state party of the convention, has treaty obligations to punish genocide.

If Canada waits on international courts to declare a situation to be genocide, it would probably be in breach of its obligations, Teich said, adding that it’s “long overdue” for Canada to declare the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghurs as genocide.

“If Canada is so concerned about wanting it to come from an international court, then Canada should refer the situation to an international court and start taking those steps. But we don’t actually see that happening,” she said. “This is another indicator that really this is kind of just an excuse.”

Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, said that by citing the need for an international court determination, the Canadian government is not upholding its “international legal responsibility to prevent genocide, and prosecute those responsible for genocide and protect the vulnerable victims of genocide.”

Tohti said it’s “troubling” that the government is still focused on pushing for an independent investigation, as Beijing hasn’t allowed unfettered access to Xinjiang. He said he has little optimism for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s visit to China in May.

“The Chinese government has made clear to the high commissioner that there is no unfettered access, meaning she cannot go wherever she wants to go. She cannot visit the places she wants to visit. And she cannot talk with the people she wants to talk,” he said.

Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi (Willowdale, Ont.), chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, asked Global Affairs officials at the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week why a declaration of genocide has taken so long after the House voted in favour of recognizing the situation as genocide.

In her testimony, Chen said the government is looking forward to Bachelet’s visit to China. “What’s been important for us is it has been an independent investigation by international experts. This has long been our position for many years now,” she said.

Bergeron called Canada’s stance “bipolar,” while Genuis said there is a “clear divergence between the legislative branch and the executive” in declaring whether a genocide is taking place.

“It is frustrating for me, it’s frustrating for Liberal MPs, and it’s frustrating for Canadians because Canadians elect Members of Parliament. They don’t elect the executive, but the legislative branch is supposed to hold the executive accountable for the steps they’re taking and the executive has been able to get away with inaction,” he said.


Source: Feds under fire for deferring decision to declare China’s actions against Uyghurs as genocide

Germany recognizes colonial killings in Namibia as genocide

Of note:

Germany has reached an agreement with Namibia that will see it officially recognize as genocide the colonial-era killings of tens of thousands of people and commit to spending a total of 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion), largely on development projects.

The accord announced Friday is the result of more than five years of talks with Namibia on the events of 1904-1908, when Germany was the southern African country’s colonial ruler.

Historians say German Gen. Lothar von Trotha, who was sent to what was then German South West Africa to put down an uprising by the Herero people in 1904, instructed his troops to wipe out the entire tribe. They say that about 65,000 Herero were killed and at least 10,000 Nama.

“In the light of Germany’s historical and moral responsibility, we will ask Namibia and the descendants of the victims for forgiveness,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement.

“Our aim was and is to find a joint path to genuine reconciliation in remembrance of the victims,” he said. “That includes our naming the events of the German colonial era in today’s Namibia, and particularly the atrocities between 1904 and 1908, unsparingly and without euphemisms.”

“We will now officially call these events what they were from today’s perspective: a genocide.”

Talks between Germany and Namibia opened in 2015, more than a decade after a 2004 visit to Namibia in which then-Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul offered Germany’s first apology for the killings, which she said were “what today would be labeled as genocide.”

Maas said that, “as a gesture of recognition of the incalculable suffering,” Germany plans to support Namibia and the descendants of the victims with a 1.1 billion-euro “rebuilding and development” program in whose design and implementation “the communities affected by the genocide will take a decisive role.”

At the same time, he said that “legal claims to compensation cannot be derived from this.”

That reflects Germany’s position that the Genocide Convention of 1948 can’t be applied retroactively, and that its liability is political and moral rather than legal.

The projects Germany will now fund are expected to stretch over a 30-year period and will cover areas such as land reform, including land purchases, agriculture, rural infrastructure, water supply and vocational training. They will be separate from continuing development aid to Namibia.

Germany says that representatives of the Herero and Nama were involved in the negotiations, though Berlin’s direct dealings have been with the Namibian government.

Germany gained control of the desert country in the 1880s and surrendered the territory to South Africa in 1915. Namibia gained independence in 1990.

Source: Germany recognizes colonial killings in Namibia as genocide

Claims of Uyghur genocide in China are ‘lies,’ adviser to B.C. premier says

Sigh. Needs to go:

A member of a committee that advises B.C. Premier John Horgan is under fire for referring to accusations of Uyghur genocide in China as “lies.”

Bill Yee, a retired provincial court judge and a member of B.C.’s Chinese-Canadian Advisory Committee, made the comments during an interview on the Toronto-based Chinese-language radio station A-1.

Those statements have a Canadian organization that advocates for democracy in Hong Kong calling on Horgan to dismiss Yee from his advisory role.

During the March 31 interview, Yee dismissed allegations that a genocide is being conducted against Uyghurs by the Chinese government.

“They use these lies, and those politicians, but what kind of legal basis do they have to prove China has committed genocide?” he said. “That doesn’t make sense.”

In the past year, the Chinese government has faced accusations of genocide from think tanks, non-governmental organizations and journalists who have documented human rights abuses in the country’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Those stories include allegations of systematic rape, forced birth control, forced labour and internment camps targeting Muslim Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities.

On Feb. 22 Canada’s House of Commons passed a motion to formally recognize that a genocide is taking place in the region. The motion passed by a vote of 266-0, with most members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet abstaining.

Last summer, witnesses who included victims of human rights abuses in the region testified before the House foreign affairs subcommittee on international human rights. The subcommittee subsequently declared that a genocide is happening in the region, and was recently sanctioned by the Chinese government, along with MP Michael Chong.

Pressed during the radio interview by host Andrea Chun, Yee said the allegations about events in Xinjiang are “made up” and “lies.”

Yee, who is a past president of the Chinese Benevolent Association in Vancouver, accused Canadian politicians of having “ulterior motives,” according to a translation of the interview done by the Star.

“The so-called evidence from some people, does that mean they’re fact? It needs to be objective,” Yee said. “Many people have ulterior motives, so have you thought about that?”

The Star requested an interview with Yee through Horgan’s director of communications, as well as through the Chinese Canadian Museum, which lists him as a member of its board of directors, and was told the messages would be passed on to him.

He did not reply to the requests.

The radio interview did not mark the first time Yee has made controversial comments about China’s human rights record.

In 1993, the Vancouver Sun reported that Yee had said there may be another “perspective” to the Tiananmen Square massacre, and that Vancouver’s pro-democracy activists may have a “hidden agenda” regarding the 1989 event.

“It’s very clear that this man is repeating the same talking points that the Chinese Communist Party has been broadcasting,” said Cherie Wong, executive director of the pro-democracy group Alliance Canada Hong Kong. “What’s worrisome is this is happening on a provincial level of politics.”

She said Yee should be dismissed from the committee, calling it a “choice John Horgan must make.”

The Star reached out to Horgan’s office about Yee’s comments last week and received a response back from Minister of State for Trade George Chow’s office that said Yee had been expressing “personal opinions” during the radio interview.

“The mandate of the advisory committee was set up to provide inputs to the government on domestic community issues and does not include foreign affairs,” the statement from Chow’s office said. “Therefore, Mr. Bill Yee has been asked to not identify himself as a member of the advisory committee when expressing personal opinions.”

The statement also said the B.C. government supports Ottawa’s stance on the issue.

But Wong said the response isn’t good enough.

“Why is it that the B.C. NDP party has an adviser who is blatantly not only echoing propaganda but also actively dismissing the lived experience of Uyghur Canadians?” Wong said. “He is not representative of what Chinese Canadians in Canada are asking for.”

She said it’s “ridiculous” to even discuss whether Yee still has a place on the committee.

Douglas Chiang, a past president of the Canadian Taiwanese Association, said he’s concerned Yee serves Horgan in an advisory role, given his comments on Xinjiang.

“It is not good news for Taiwanese people, not good news for Canadian people” he said. “I don’t know why he is an adviser for the premier.”

Chiang said all Canadian leaders should be concerned about human rights and freedoms.

Source: Claims of Uyghur genocide in China are ‘lies,’ adviser to B.C. premier says

Human rights adviser presses Trudeau to call out China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide

Right call:

Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal justice minister and a leading voice on human rights, is urging Justin Trudeau to take steps to recognize that China is conducting acts of genocide against its Muslim minority.

Mr. Cotler said the federal government could either ask the Supreme Court of Canada to rule on whether China is committing genocide or have Parliament adopt a resolution on the issue.

MPs are preparing to vote Monday on a Conservative motion to recognize China’s conduct as genocide. The NDP, Bloc Québécois and Green Party have indicated that they would support the motion, which says Beijing’s actions contravene the UN Genocide Convention.

The Prime Minister, who said this week that he was reluctant to describe China’s conduct as genocide and that the matter required more study, recently appointed Mr. Cotler as his special adviser for Holocaust remembrance and combatting anti-Semitism.

The Montreal lawyer said he’s confident that what is taking place in China meets the test of genocide.

“I have looked at all the evidence and I have no doubt that, in fact, there are mass atrocities that are constitutive to acts of genocide under the Genocide Convention,” Mr. Cotler said in an interview.

The Biden and Trump administrations have both said Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region meet a credible definition of “genocide.” Allegations include mass incarceration, destruction of religious sites, forced labour, forced sterilization and other forms of population control, as well as torture.

Mr. Cotler said forced sterilizations and abortions and holding more than one million Uyghurs in what he called “concentration camps” violate the Convention.

“This constitutes the largest detention of a minority since the Holocaust … and you have witnesses testifying about forced enslavement, torture, mass rape, disappearances, murder,” he said.

A growing body of evidence from human-rights monitors, Western media outlets and testimony from Uyghur survivors themselves has documented China’s actions.

Media reports have detailed how China has forced intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands in Xinjiang. Birth rates in Hotan and Kashgar, Uyghur-majority areas of Xinjiang, fell more than 60 per cent between 2015 and 2018, an Associated Press report says.

Beijing defends its conduct by saying that it’s trying to stamp out extremism and calls the camps re-education centres.

The Conservative motion would not be the first statement from Parliament on the issue. In October, a House of Commons subcommittee, dominated by Liberal MPs, also labelled Beijing’s conduct in Xinjiang as genocide.

Arif Virani, the parliamentary secretary to Justice Minister and Attorney-General David Lametti, later told the Commons that he believed “it is genocide that appears to be taking place today in China.”

The federal government has previously said it wants an independent investigation into China’s treatment of the Uyghurs. And Mr. Trudeau said earlier this week that Canada would like to be part of such an investigation. Human-rights advocates have pointed out that it’s extremely unlikely China would ever allow it.

When asked if he is reluctant to describe China’s conduct as genocide in case it leads to repercussions for jailed Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Mr. Trudeau said Monday that his primary concern is making sure the term genocide is not misused.

“There is no question there have been tremendous human-rights abuses reported coming out of Xinjiang, and we are extremely concerned about that.”

But he said that when it comes to calling it genocide, “we need to ensure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed in the process before a determination like that is made.”

Mr. Cotler said he knows the Prime Minister is worried about the fate of the two Michaels but added that a parliamentary determination of genocide would allow “the government to say they are responding to the will of Parliament, which is reflective and representative of the will of the people … or they can go the Supreme Court route.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul have said they believe Beijing is committing genocide against the Uyghurs. Ms. Paul has urged Ottawa to consider diplomatic and economic sanctions against China.

The Conservatives have said that other consequences should follow a recognition of genocide, and they have already urged the government to press Olympic organizers to move the 2022 Winter Games out of Beijing. The Conservative motion to be voted on Monday was amended during debate Thursday to also urge the relocation of the Games from Beijing.

Paul Evans, the HSBC Chair in Asian Research at the University of British Columbia, said Canada is “not on strong moral and political ground” to lead on the issue of genocide, given this country’s painful history of residential schools for Indigenous children.

“There do appear to be parallels between our residential-school history and what Beijing is attempting to do with some of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang,” he said.

“We would be on a firmer ground, and more likely to attract others to the cause, if we labelled Chinese actions in Xinjiang as ‘cultural genocide,’ a horror we are very familiar with in our own story.”


Canada better fits the definition of a state committing genocide than Xinjiang region, China says

Cultural genocide with respect to Indigenous peoples, but acknowledge, recognition and efforts to address past and present injustice. None of which is happening in China. And legitimate to call for boycott of 2020 Winter Olympics in China:

The Chinese government says Canada better fits the definition of a state committing genocide than the Xinjiang region, pointing to population growth rates – some inaccurate – that it says demonstrate it has not mistreated its Uyghur population.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also scoffed at the “ignorance” of Bob Rae, the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, who on Sunday said “there’s no question that there’s aspects of what the Chinese are doing” in Xinjiang that “fits into the definition of genocide in the Genocide Convention.”

Mr. Rae’s comments mark the latest escalation from the Canadian government in its condemnation of Chinese policies in Xinjiang, where women have been sterilized, large numbers of people have been forced into political indoctrination camps and mosques have been demolished. Mr. Rae made the comments to the CBC, saying he has called for the United Nations Human Rights Council to mount a genocide investigation in Xinjiang.

On Monday, Mr. Zhao mocked Mr. Rae for his “ridiculous” remarks, pointing to demographic statistics as evidence. In Xinjiang the Uyghur population has increased by 25 per cent between 2010 and 2018, he said, a rate he called “18 times the rate of Canada.” That would suggest that “it is the Canadian people, rather than the Uyghurs, who are being persecuted,” he said, adding: “The ambassador should have done his homework beforehand to avoid making a fool of himself.”

Mr. Zhao, however, cited inaccurate figures. Canada’s population grew by more than 10 per cent between 2010 and 2018, according to Statistics Canada.

And Mr. Zhao did nothing to refute the dramatic changes in Hotan and Kashgar, Uyghur-dominated areas of Xinjiang where birth rates fell more than 60 per cent between 2015 and 2018, the Associated Press has reported. The Xinjiang Health Commission has in public documents called for population growth rates in some areas with large Uyghur communities to be brought considerably below 2016 levels, according to research by Adrian Zenz, a U.S.-based scholar and senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

“In Guma [Pishan] County, the 2019 family planning budget plan specifically called for 8,064 female sterilizations,” Mr. Zenz wrote in a report this summer.

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as acts that include “imposing measures intended to prevent births within [a] group,” as well as “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of [a] group.”

Some ethnic Muslims in Xinjiang who went through centres for political indoctrination and skills training have described conditions so oppressive they attempted to kill themselves.

But few have been willing to accuse China of genocide. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said China’s actions in Xinjiang “remind us of what happened in the 1930s in Germany,” while a resolution in the U.S. Senate has said China’s campaign “against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and members of other Muslim minority groups … constitutes genocide.”

Chinese authorities have said they have protected human rights in Xinjiang by creating stability and helping to grow the economy. The Chinese government has defended its use of forcible political indoctrination as a necessary redress for radical thought. More recently, it has said that “students” in indoctrination centres have all “graduated.”

The Chinese government has said publicly that it has invited a European Union delegation to see the “real situation” in Xinjiang. That visit has not taken place because the two sides have yet to agree on terms.

Other governments, including in Australia, have declined to use the term “genocide,” saying such a determination is for courts to make.

Scholars, however, argue that the key question is not evidence but national will.

“There is a plethora of evidence in this case, but I think the larger problem will be the political capacity of international institutions to challenge a state as powerful” as China, said Sean Roberts, an international affairs specialist at George Washington University who is the author of The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign against a Muslim Minority.

For Ottawa to lend its voice is important, he said. But it “will take a broad coalition of different states to change Beijing’s behaviour. If this is followed by others, it will indeed be significant, especially if those other states extend beyond the US, EU, and the British commonwealth.”

National leaders should also consider steps outside a genocide case, said Timothy Grose, a scholar who specializes in Xinjiang and Chinese ethnic policy at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

That could include “a broad boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics,” he said.

“”It is now up to world leaders and global corporations to persuade China to halt its state-violence against Uyghurs,” he said.

“A boycott would devastate revenue for the host city Beijing and the negative journalistic attention a boycott would attract – that would occur on a global scale – would almost certainly force leaders’ hands.”

Source: Canada better fits the definition of a state committing genocide than Xinjiang region, China says

Parliament should label Uyghur persecution as genocide to foster global support against China’s human rights abuses, says former Liberal justice minister

Needed debate and action:

Parliamentarians heard from activists during hours-long committee meetings last week who were calling for the Chinese government’s oppression of Uyghur Muslims to be acknowledged as genocide, and a former justice minister says Parliament is uniquely positioned to have a “distinguishable role” in condemning Beijing’s alleged behaviour to build an international partnership to counter China’s bullying.

The House Subcommittee on International Human Rights heard from more than 20 witnesses over 14 hours on July 20 and July 21 about the persecution of the Uyghurs. Many said the mistreatment and abuse of Uyghurs was tantamount to genocide and called for Canada to take a stand.

“Genocide obliges us all—internationally, domestically, governments, Parliaments, civil societies—and here the Canadian Parliament has a distinguishable role to call out genocide,” said Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal justice minister and now founding chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. He told The Hill Times that Parliament has set a precedent of playing a leading role in calling out human rights abuses and acts of genocide.

“I think it’s very important that governments act in concert, that Parliaments act in concert, as well as civil society acting in concert in calling out China,” said Mr. Cotler, who was a Liberal MP from 1999 to 2015. “If we want to protect the rules-based international order—and justice for the victims in China and accountability for the violators—we’re going to have to do so in concert governmentally and in Parliament.”

“Canada can play a leading role in this,” he said, citing the work that Parliamentarians have previously done raising the issue of genocide prevention, and raising awareness of the Rohingya genocide, among other targeted mass killings.

“China has been assaulting the rules-based international order and committing these international crimes with impunity thus far,” Mr. Cotler said. “They’ve been able to do so with impunity because they have been leveraging their economic and political power, and targeting countries one by one if those countries dare stand up to them.”

“What is needed now is an inter-governmental alliance, an alliance of democracies, so China doesn’t leverage its power and bully countries one by one.”

Some witnesses told the subcommittee that it is necessary for Canada to place sanctions on top Chinese Communist Party officials in Xinjiang where there are reports of mass detentions and forced sterilization of the Uyghur population.

The Associated Press reported on a systematic program to reduce the Muslim population in China, with the government enacting population control measures, which included IUDs and sterilization.

Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, told the subcommittee that in 2018, 80 per cent of new IUDs in China were placed in Xinjiang, which only makes up 1.8 per cent of China’s population.

The Chinese government has long held that human rights abuses aren’t taking place in Xinjiang and have called the alleged detention facilities “vocational education and training centres” that are being used to combat terrorism.

University of Ottawa international law professor Errol Mendes, who appeared virtually before the subcommittee, said Canada should apply Magnitsky sanctions on the “chief planners of the detention.” He said that should be Xinjiang regional government chairman Shohrat Zakir and Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, a member of the politburo.

Prof. Mendes told The Hill Times that imposing sanctions would prove that Canada is not staying silent and is upholding its commitment as a party to the United Nations Genocide Convention.

He added that the sanctions will “probably not” have tangible results in the short run. In spite of that, Prof. Mendes said when countries have “sufficient proof” that a genocide is taking place, “they must act.”

Magnitsky sanctions have already been applied on Chinese Communist Party officials in Xinjiang by the U.S., including on Mr. Chen.

Prof. Mendes said other levers can also be used, such as stopping companies from purchasing products in their supply lines from Xinjiang, which have reportedly been through forced labour.

He said that a motion of Parliament labelling the actions of the Chinese government as acts of genocide might not have impact for Beijing.

“Sending a direct signal to one of the main politburo members sends a message to President Xi [Jinping],” Prof. Mendes said.

Mr. Cotler said a parliamentary condemnation of the Chinese government’s mistreatment should include sanctions as well.

“Under the Genocide Convention, there is an obligation to act pursuant to that determination and an obligation to hold a country—that is engaged in acts that constitute genocide—accountable,” he said.

It is the responsibility of Canada and the international community to bring justice to the victims and hold criminals accountable, Mr. Cotler said.

University of Ottawa professor John Packer, director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre, said that it is clear that China has been committing genocide based on the Genocide Convention.

According to the convention, an act of genocide is taking place if any of the five conditions are met: killing members of a group; causing “serious bodily harm or mental harm” to member of a group; intentionally “inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”; “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”; and “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Prof. Packer said it looks “quite clear” that there have been breaches of the convention, adding that “it is very difficult not to draw the negative inference that this is purposeful state policy.”

“That would mean that it is genocide,” he said. “This is not by accident.”

“If China really believes this is all mistaken, they should be entirely open to exposing to international scrutiny what is going on,” he said, adding that if there is a dispute, the convention states it should be referred to the International Court of Justice.

Prof. Packer also noted a party to the Genocide Convention has a duty to prevent acts of genocide.

“If we see something happening and we are silent then there are fundamental issues about how seriously we consider this fundamental norm of international relations,” he said.

“Where such cases [of genocide] are quite clear in terms of international exposure, such as the Rohingya, such as the Uyghurs, it strikes me as extraordinary that we would demure—that we would shuffle our feet and look the other way,” Prof. Packer said.

He added that a motion of Parliament acknowledging a genocide is taking place would set a “very big international symbol.”

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.), his party’s critic of Canada-China relations, said the subcommittee heard “clear-cut” evidence of genocide.

“We should recognize that the Chinese state is guilty of genocide in Xinjiang,” he said, adding that Canada should respond with Magnitsky sanctions and by addressing the possible complicity of investment in Chinese companies that are involved in the oppression in Xinjiang, as well as imported products that are produced through forced labour.

“All of that flows from recognition” that a genocide has taken place, Mr. Genuis said, adding that both the Canadian government and the House of Commons should make that acknowledgement.

Echoing Mr. Cotler, he said there is a need for principled multilateralism of likeminded countries that follow their own obligations in concert with each other.

“What we’ve seen from the government is occasional words but no actions,” Mr. Genuis said. “The government has acknowledged the issue of abuses of human rights involving Uyghurs. They have not used the word ‘genocide,’ they have not used the words ‘crimes against humanity.’ In other words, they haven’t used words that carry international legal significance.”

In a brief to the International Human Rights Subcommittee, Global Affairs noted that Canada is “deeply concerned” about human rights abuses against Uyghurs by Chinese officials.

Canada is urging that Beijing release “Uyghurs and other Muslims who have been detained arbitrarily—based on their ethnicity and religion.”

“Publicly and privately, in multilateral fora as well as in bilateral dialogues, Canada has consistently called the Chinese government to address repression in Xinjiang,” the brief notes.

Mr. Genuis said the government hasn’t addressed the issue in areas that have “legal weight.”

NDP MP Heather McPherson (Edmonton Strathcona, Alta.), her party’s representative on the International Human Rights Subcommittee, said the committee will release a statement on the meetings in early August.

“I think what we pretty universally agreed upon is that there needs to be more done,” she said. “We need to take a stronger stance to ensure that we are protecting human rights around the world. It doesn’t matter where it happens, the rule of law and the protection of human rights is vital.”

Ms. McPherson wouldn’t say whether the subcommittee meetings will lead to a recognition by Parliament that acts of genocide have taken place.

“I will say that the testimony that we heard—the very credible witnesses that we heard from, the survivors that we heard from—there’s pretty strong proof and testimony that there have been acts of genocide perpetrated against the Uyghur people,” she said.

She added that it is vital to figure out a strategy to re-engage on the world stage to jointly address China’s human rights record.

“We’re not ever going to want to do this alone. … We’re never going to want to take giant steps by ourselves. I think we want to work with our multilateral partners and we want to work with our likeminded allies and use those tools at our disposal to put some pressure on China to come back to the side of international law, to come back to the side of protection of human rights.”

Source: Parliament should label Uyghur persecution as genocide to foster global support against China’s human rights abuses, says former Liberal justice minister

Indian politics front and centre in Ontario as legislature debates law declaring Sikh genocide

Diaspora politics at its worst (the Ford government also changed the requirement for Canadian Sikhs to wear helmets given similar pressures).

Concordia Professor Frank Chalk’s comments at the end position the issue correctly:

The emotionally fraught politics of India are poised to again engulf the Ontario legislature, as opposing Indo-Canadian factions pressure lawmakers over a contentious private member’s bill commemorating a 36-year-old massacre.

The legislation to create a “Sikh genocide week,” introduced by the MPP brother of federal New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh, marks riots in 1984 that saw thousands of Sikhs killed in New Delhi and elsewhere in India.

The killings, encouraged by leaders of the then-ruling Congress Party, remain a festering wound for many Sikh-Canadians. But the terminology in the bill is a red flag for Delhi, and a previous Ontario motion that called the attacks genocide helped raise tensions between Canada and India.

Allies of the current Indian administration — itself under fire for persecution of another minority group, India’s Muslims — were expected to show up in force at Queen’s Park Thursday to voice their opposition to the bill.

Sikh organizations have been working behind the scenes to rally Ontario’s governing Conservative party to back the legislation, adding to expected votes from the NDP and Liberals. One source said more than 40 Tory members pledged their backing this week, anxious not to alienate the powerful Sikh voting bloc in the suburbs west of Toronto.

With that amount of Conservative support, the bill would easily pass second reading in the 124-seat house, a rarity among private-member’s initiatives.

Ivana Yelich, Premier Doug Ford’s press secretary, said Wednesday only that the government is “reviewing” the legislation, and could not reveal what was said about it at a Tory caucus meeting Monday.

Meanwhile, a leading academic expert on genocide said Wednesday the 1984 attacks, as horrific as they were, simply did not meet the internationally accepted definition of the term.

New Democrat Gurratan Singh, who introduced the bill last month, could not be reached for comment. But as he unveiled the legislation, he said the Sikh community’s cries for justice over the event have gone unheeded.

“The trauma of this genocide is real and still impacts Sikhs that call Ontario home,” said Singh. This bill will create a time to allow for reflection and help begin the process of healing for thousands of Sikhs (who) continue to suffer.”

But Anil Shah of the pro-New Delhi Canada India Foundation said the killings were reprehensible acts of revenge, not government-perpetrated genocide. Suggesting otherwise will further anger the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who already believes the federal Liberal government favours the Sikh independence movement. He pointed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ill-fated trip to India, where Modi largely gave him the cold shoulder.

“There are going to be repercussions” if the bill passes, Shah predicted. “At this point, we should talk about building relations with this country, we should talk about the trade. Something that happened 35, 36 years ago … that has no relevance.”

After two Sikh bodyguards murdered prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, a wave of pogroms saw at least 3,000 Sikhs slaughtered by rampaging Hindus, encouraged at times by prominent Congress officials.

The Ontario legislature passed a motion in 2017 at the instigation of a Liberal member describing the events as a genocide. The Indian government at the time called the motion “misguided,” and a misunderstanding of India’s history and legal system. It added to a perception in New Delhi that Liberals federally and in Ontario favoured the Khalistani or Sikh separatist movement and helped put a chill on relations.

But is there, in fact, merit to declaring the vicious pogroms of 1984 as something akin to the Holocaust or the Rwandan massacre?

As it turns out, there is United Nations genocide convention that defines the term, and what happened to the Sikhs, while likely a crime against humanity, does not meet that definition, says Frank Chalk, a Concordia University history professor and past president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars.

While the  victims were clearly targeted because of their religion, the killings were not part of a “long-term, sustained and systematic” effort, perpetrated by government, to wipe out the Sikhs, which is how genocide is described in the UN convention, he said.

“I have enormous sympathy for the Sikh community and the crimes inflicted on the Sikh people in India after Gandhi was assassinated,” Chalk said. “But I fail to sympathize with the priority that some leaders of the community in Canada — not all — give to labeling their suffering and victimization as genocide. I know that gets more media attention … so it’s understandable from the point of view of communications and public relations.”

Source: Indian politics front and centre in Ontario as legislature debates law declaring Sikh genocide

More education on genocide needed in Canada

Hard to argue against this but one wonders, with all the demands on curriculum, how educators will find time for meaningful treatment and the extent this complements or replaces existing Holocaust-based material which also had a broader perspective:

The tragic massacre of 50 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, is one more horrific incident that confirms mass murder has spread to even the most peaceful of nations. Like a fire, massacres are fuelled by hate and ignorance, and are now broadcast through social media, with dozens of hate crimes reported daily around the world.

There is a chilling similarity to the underlying motives behind these global violent acts. Ignorance of “the other,” be it a racial or religious minority group, is often cited, leading to an unfounded fear of being “invaded” and overtaken by foreign cultures and values. Fear then devolves into a conviction that the foreign invader must be eliminated. This is justified by dehumanizing the community, labelling it as criminal and evil, or plotting a “white genocide.”

While we must denounce this senseless violence, we must do more than react. Ignorance and fear must be prevented through education of the next generation, before racist beliefs take root and destroy lives. As the founder of the Foundation for Genocide Education—made up of representatives from the Jewish, Rwandan, Armenian, and First Nations communities—I’m convinced that by teaching high school students about the consequences of hate, fear, and discrimination, future atrocities can be avoided. Our mission is to ensure that the study of all recognized genocides, and the steps leading to genocide, are made a permanent part of the high school curriculum across Canada.

My organization is not alone in recognizing the value of learning about genocide. In 2018, UNESCO published a policy guide on the importance of teaching genocide, specifically the Holocaust, as a means to prevent future atrocities, while helping the next generation to become responsible citizens who value human dignity. This is a step in the right direction, but the challenge remains translating theory into practice.

Shockingly, our foundation’s experience demonstrates that many Canadian students graduate high schools with little to no knowledge about past or present genocides.  Some don’t even know the definition of the word.

Teachers across the country have told us that they lack the resources, time, and confidence to effectively educate their classes about this sensitive subject. Eight countries to date have made the study of genocide compulsory as part of their high school curriculums, but no Canadian province has yet done so.

How can we expect our children to recognize the dangers of intolerance and racism without proper education? How can they identify and react to online racist propaganda if they are unaware of how the media has been used historically by extremist groups to spread hate and violence?

The foundation is now partnering with Quebec’s education ministry to create a comprehensive, universal guide on teaching genocide. Once test-piloted by teachers this September, the guide will be available in every high school in Quebec by 2020. Introduced with accompanying training workshops and educational videos, it will serve to significantly build on the basic concepts of genocide already in place in the curriculum. Teachers need to be supported with the knowledge, resources, and skills required to teach about genocide and human rights, and this guide accomplishes that.

With this and next month’s commemoration days of the Armenian, Jewish, and Rwandan genocides, it’s an opportune time to reinforce the message of the devastating impact of unchecked hate. To hear the stories of survivors of the Armenian genocide, the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, and the Holocaust, is to truly understand the chilling effects of racist propaganda that leads to dehumanization and, ultimately, genocide.

As a daughter of Holocaust survivors, I know all too well that we cannot afford to be complacent. My parents survived the Holocaust by hiding in attics and barns in Poland. My mother saw her own mother killed by machine gun in the squalid ghetto where Jews were forced to live before being deported to concentration camps such as Auschwitz. My family’s story is tragically not unique, and today’s students will undoubtedly benefit more from learning about these accounts than from the messages that are communicated by crazed white nationalist manifestos and live-streamed shooting of innocent victims.

By studying the consequences of unchecked hate, students will be equipped with the critical thinking skills to better understand racism and intolerance. We must not let another year go by without passing on this essential knowledge to our youth, the leaders of tomorrow.

Source: More education on genocide needed in Canada

The Devouring: It’s time to recognize Roma genocide

Gina Csanyi-Robah, Robert Eisenberg and Vahan Kololian on the Roma:

A slaughter that in many ways paralleled both the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire in 1915-16 as well as the Jewish Holocaust. August 2 is the official date designated by the worldwide Roma community to commemorate the Devouring. So why have so few people heard of it?

Unlike Jewish history and what has become the best recorded genocide of the modern era, the Devouring is still little known. While the history of the Roma genocide has been passed on orally through the generations, only recently has there been a movement to record this tragic history. Following the war the Roma community was so devastated it took 60 years to rebuild.

As a result, estimates of the number of Roma killed by the Nazis vary significantly, ranging between 250,000 and 1.5 million. Dr. Ian Hancock of the University of Texas, a world renowned expert on the Roma genocide suggests “… of the estimated 20,000 Romanies in Germany in 1939, fully three quarters had been murdered by 1945. Of the 11,200 in Austria, a half were murdered. Of the 50,000 in Poland, 35,000. In Croatia, Estonia, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Luxembourg, almost the entire Romani populations were eradicated.”

And there are many more in the field of genocide studies who have supported Dr. Hancock’s theory. Indeed, it is telling that the only country at this point that has recognized the Devouring as a legitimate genocide is Germany.

Like Eastern European Jews, they were designated as Untermenschen, unworthy of life. Along with the Jews, they were rounded up from their nomadic villages and thrown onto cattle cars destined for death camps. Indeed, it is said that Roma and Jews walked hand in hand into the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

The designation of genocide has always been emotionally charged. Motivated by both the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust, international legalist Raphael Lemkin coined the term to give specific meaning to the systemic and systematic murder of an entire people. Today, the United Nations genocide convention, which has universal acceptance, defines it as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

If denoting genocide is emotionally charged, its political ramifications can be even greater. The Armenian community struggled long and hard to have Canada finally recognize their tragedy. Threatened economic and diplomatic repercussions from Turkey – which has steadfastly refused to accept the slaughter – were lodged with Canadian authorities when it discussed recognition in Parliament. Nonetheless in 2004, the Parliament of Canada began the process that was completed two years later by the Harper government with full recognition.

The Roma community in Canada, indeed worldwide, has neither the clout in government nor the institutional presence necessary to convince governments to recognize the Devouring. Sadly, global systemic discrimination was also a key factor for ignoring their history. Indeed, to this day the Roma, especially in Eastern Europe, remain persecuted targets of neo-Nazi and other extreme right-wing groups. However, time has certainly come for this recognition.

We lost Elie Wiesel last month, a Nobel laureate and a chronicler of the Holocaust. Mr. Wiesel once wisely noted: “Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.”

Source: The Devouring: It’s time to recognize Roma genocide – The Globe and Mail