Canada announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics, athletes will still compete

Sarah Producer

@TurnbullSarah Contact

Published Wednesday, December 8, 2021

OTTAWA — Canada will proceed with a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, meaning government officials won’t attend but athletes can continue to compete.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on Wednesday during a press conference alongside Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge.

“We are extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government. That is why we are announcing today that we will not be sending any diplomatic representation to the Beijing Olympic, Paralympic Games this winter,” Trudeau said.

“Our athletes have been training for years and are looking forward to compete at the highest level against athletes from around the world. They will continue to have all of our fullest support.”

The U.S. announced a diplomatic boycott on Monday as a means of protesting against human rights abuses in China towards the Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the U.S. has a “fundamental commitment to promoting human rights” and that it “will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.”

Since then, Australia and the U.K. have followed suit.

China has denied those allegations and says the boycott violates “the principle of political neutrality of sports established by the Olympic Charter and runs counter to the Olympic motto `more united,”‘ Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters.

Trudeau said China shouldn’t be surprised by the move.

“We have been very clear over the past many years of our deep concerns around human rights violations and this is a continuation of us expressing our deep concerns,” he said.

Many former diplomats and international security analysts have suggested Canada should go further and enforce a full boycott, withdrawing all Canadian presence, including athletes.

Asked about this, Joly reiterated that athletes should be kept out of political dispute.

“Our athletes have worked extremely hard to get there. They have trained hours, they’ve travelled the world, they’ve competed…this is a situation that needs to be dealt with diplomatically and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” she said.

In terms of athlete safety on the ground, St-Onge said the government is working closely with the RCMP to ensure robust security measures are in place.

“There are already agents that have been hired to ensure the security of the athletes and we’re still in discussion with the RCMP, with [Public Safety Minister] Marco Mendicino and everything will be in place to make sure that the athletes are safe. That’s our priority,” she said.

The RCMP have in the past worked with the Canadian Olympic Committee on safety precautions ahead of Olympic Games.

“In this particular situation, it is obvious that we want to make sure that our athletes have access to protection services and that’s why we’ll be working with the RCMP but also we will be liaising with our embassies and missions across China because we want to make sure our diplomatic services on site are there,” Joly added.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Wednesday he approves of a diplomatic boycott.

“We shouldn’t send a message that we accept treatment of the Uyghurs, and we accept the situation in Hong Kong so at this stage a diplomatic boycott is appropriate,” he said.

The NDP have also sought to push the government in this direction.

With a file from The Associated Press