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

Douglas Todd: ‘If I say I don’t see skin colour, am I racist?’ asks B.C. government agency

Personally, I find the debates over nomenclature less interesting than the substantive issues of discrimination and inequality. That being said, a reasonable billboard campaign, just as the Toronto one “where are you from” was:

Would you ask Doris Day that question?”

That’s how famed jazz singer Billie Holiday responds during a 1957 interview to a journalist who asks, “What it’s like to be a coloured woman?” The scene is in the new movie, The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

The acclaimed singer’s answer reflected the anti-racism approach of that era, which had civil rights leaders urging Americans to see beyond the skin colour of Blacks and other minorities — to treat them equally, like everyone else.

Source: Douglas Todd: ‘If I say I don’t see skin colour, am I racist?’ asks B.C. government agency

B.C. premier ‘alarmed’ by systemic racism allegations, promises anti-racism law

To watch and see similarities and differences with other provinces:

British Columbia’s premier says the government is working on anti-racism legislation that may be introduced this year.

John Horgan also said Wednesday he was “alarmed” to hear allegations of racism at the Royal B.C. Museum, which should be a welcome and respectful place for all Canadians.

Horgan said Melanie Mark, the minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport, is working with the Public Service Agency to ensure allegations of racism are followed up on as part of its investigation.

He said the museum’s board and senior staff have taken multiple allegations of racism by employees seriously and the findings of the investigation will be made public.

The resignation of Jack Lohman, the chief executive officer of the museum, was announced earlier this week after nine years in the position.

In a news release, the museum’s board of directors said Lohman’s departure on Friday was “mutually agreed” to be in the best interests of the organization as it “addresses current internal issues,” without elaborating.

Last month, the First Nations Leadership Council said in a statement that it was “disturbed by several recent media reports” alleging “ongoing systemic racism and toxic working conditions” at the museum.

The museum said Lohman was not available for comment this week and board chair Daniel Muzyka would not be available until Thursday.

Horgan said Mark is well placed to help the museum, which operates as a Crown corporation.

“Nobody takes this more seriously than minister Mark and I’m grateful that she is in place at this difficult time for not just the leadership, of course, at the museum but (for) all of those across British Columbia who look so fondly at the museum as a public asset, a real jewel for all British Columbians,” he said.

Horgan says a revitalization plan for the museum is underway as the province works with the federal government to understand the value of the facility’s archival materials.

“We need to have a respectful workplace, we need to make sure that it’s open for everyone to come, free of persecution or any hints of racism.”

Muzyka will serve as acting CEO until a replacement is found for Lohman, who was described by the board as “an internationally recognized expert in museums.”

It said “the board of directors acknowledges, with appreciation, his nine years of vision and service.”

Source: B.C. premier ‘alarmed’ by systemic racism allegations, promises anti-racism law

Horgan calls for national anti-racism program; will pitch idea to PM, premiers

The challenge lies in the specifics, and better information in terms of what works, is more effective and is scaleable.

My experience when running the multiculturalism program, rather dated now, was that small projects, while worthwhile in many ways, had little long lasting impact and that previous strategies have had little impact on the communities most affected:

Saying Canada’s diversity and multiculturalism mean we need a national strategy to combat racism, Premier John Horgan will make his case to the Premiers and federal government today.

Each Thursday Horgan attends a weekly conference call with other provincial and territorial leaders and the Prime Minister. Today he says he will push for a “coast-to-coast-to-coast” strategy to tackle racism.

“I think that lifts up all Canadians and we can identify and recognize that it’s a diverse, multicultural country; better to have a national approach to these issues and having provinces fully supporting those.”

He also took a moment to express his horror at the death of George Floyd in the U.S., and understands the need to protest and have your voice heard right now, despite the pandemic.

“Be responsible to yourself and more importantly, to the people around you,” he asked of British Columbian’s planning to attend protests.

Horgan acknowledged a series of well-known historically racist events and policies, including the Chinese Head Tax, the Komagata Maru incident, aimed at South Asian migrants and ongoing racism towards Indigenous people.

The premier also spoke out recently against alleged racially-motivated attacks against Chinese-Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Horgan calls for national anti-racism program; will pitch idea to PM, premiers

Horgan says lessons to be learned from Komagata Maru racism during pandemic

Good messaging:

B.C. Premier John Horgan is paying tribute to nearly 400 South Asians who were forced to leave Canada due to discriminatory policies more than a century ago.

Horgan says racism faced by the Sikh, Muslim and Hindu men who arrived at Vancouver’s harbour aboard the Komagata Maru on May 23, 1914, hurt generations of people.

“This event stands as a reminder for how racism, discrimination and hate have hurt generations of people. But it also reminds us of the incredible resiliency in our province — including all those who stand up against injustice and work to make B.C. a place where everyone is welcome and safe.

“As we live through the COVID-19 pandemic, racism has tarnished our community’s response. People have been attacked and assaulted. Racism has no place in our province. We must stand firm against hate and learn from our past as we build a better, more inclusive future.”

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy.

Horgan had earlier spoken out against racism toward Asians during the pandemic.

Vancouver police said this week that the number of anti-Asian racism cases since March had jumped markedly compared with the same period last year.

Police say they have opened 29 cases since B.C. declared a state of emergency over the pandemic, compared with only four cases of racism in 2019. The first case of COVID-19 was found in China.

Source: Horgan says lessons to be learned from Komagata Maru racism during pandemic