Senator’s proposal would ban outright the import of goods from Xinjiang province where Uyghurs are used as forced labour
Goods made with forced labour have been banned from being imported into Canada since July 2020 . However, existing laws are ineffective because they rely on Canadian border service agents to determine whether forced labour has been used. Agents often lack the capacity to accurately make these determinations, as the origins of imports are very difficult to trace and evaluate.
The Canada Border Services Agency has only intercepted one shipment of Chinese slave goods so far — a batch of women’s and children’s clothing that arrived in Quebec. Several MPs, including many Liberals, have been calling for more stringent rules that provide more than just a token effort at keeping Chinese slave goods out of Canada.
Housakos’ proposed bill, in addition to bluntly resolving logistical issues around banning Uyghur slave labour, would also send a rebuke to China over its genocidal policies.
If successful, Canada would be the first country in the world to ban East Turkestan imports, though a similar policy is currently being explored in the United States, which currently only bans cotton and tomato products from the region. Meanwhile, the EU is exploring implementing a ban that resembles Canada’s current rules — the move is widely seen as a criticism of China.
Should Housakos’ bill succeed, Chinese slave goods may still find their way into Canada through other channels. A 2020 report by the Australia Strategic Policy Institute (APSI) found that between 2017 and 2019 the Chinese government facilitated the mass transfer of more than 80,000 Uyghurs from East Turkestan to other parts of China, moving them beyond the scope of Housakos’ proposed ban.
Transferred Uyghurs were forced to work in inhumane conditions while undergoing political indoctrination. They were surveilled, threatened with arbitrary detention, and had their families in East Turkestan threatened as well. The report identified 82 foreign and Chinese companies that potentially benefitted from this arrangement, including Nike, Microsoft, Nintendo and Zara.
China continues to deny that it is mistreating Uyghurs. It has argued that its concentration camps in East Turkestan, which contain approximately one million Uyghurs, are merely vocational schools meant to teach job skills. Yet a large and continuously growing body of evidence shows that Uyghurs are being subject to torture, forced sterilization, religious conversions and political indoctrination.
Even those outside the camps find it difficult to live normal lives as they must endure persistent surveillance and arbitrary detention . Public expression of cultural or religious identity comes with the risk of incarceration.
The Chinese government maintains that none of this is happening and that it is only a coincidence that the Uyghur birth rate plummeted by nearly 50 per cent between 2017 and 2019.
Seemingly contradicting itself, China has also argued that Canada has no moral authority to lecture on genocide given the history of Canadian residential schools. This argument has been echoed by some Sinophile politicians in Canada, including B.C. Senator Yuen Pau Woo , who is considered by many to be a Beijing mouthpiece
How asinine. Atoning for bad history means fighting harder against injustice, not acquiescing to it.
Some may wonder why China is so invested in eradicating the Uyghurs. Its reasons are rooted in history and geopolitics. East Turkestan was conquered by China in the 1700s and has since been subject to centuries of colonization. The region is valuable to China due to its strategic location and ample natural resources — it is both China’s military buffer and economic bridge to Central Asia.
The Uyghurs have often agitated for independence, seeking the right to self-determination, religious freedom and a share of the area’s resource wealth, which currently flows to Eastern China.
As China has grown more assertive under Xi Jinping, it has become more willing to use extreme measures to ensure that its control of East Turkestan is not threatened. In some ways, the use of concentration camps is the natural outcome of a government that treats its newfound clout with the grace of a boy-king .
Unfortunately, the Trudeau government has been reluctant to stand up to China. When Parliament overwhelmingly voted to declare China’s treatment of the Uyghurs a genocide , the prime minister and most members of his cabinet abstained from voting.
Global Affairs Canada did not respond by deadline Wednesday to a request for comment on Housakos’ proposed ban.