The Prime Minister shouldn’t declare something a genocide at a press conference (again). But he should be able to speak coherently
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, and so perhaps we shouldn’t hold Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to any previously articulated conception of “genocide.” In 2019 he accepted the findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that Canada was guilty not just of a historic genocide against Indigenous peoples (for which there is a case to be made) and women and girls specifically (which is a stretch), but also an ongoing one (which is patently absurd).
Things went rather differently on Tuesday when Trudeau was asked whether he believes China is perpetrating genocide against its Muslim Uyghur population.
Those who say “yes” include big-league human rights lawyer and former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, newly minted U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and the authors of a 105-page legal opinion from the Essex Court Chambers in London, released late last month.
A particularly compelling Canadian corollary: In 2019, German anthropologist Adrian Zenz published strong evidence that children were being forcibly separated from their parents and sent to boarding schools.
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Trudeau was under no obligation to declare the situation a genocide at a press conference. That’s where he declared himself prime minister of a genocidal state in 2019, and one suspects he might regret it somewhat. But he might have done better than he did.
“On determinations of genocide, the principles of international law and the international community in general — I think rightly — takes (sic) very, very seriously the label of genocide, and needs to ensure that when it is used, it is clearly and properly justified and demonstrated, so as not to weaken the application of genocide in situations in the past,” Trudeau told reporters.
Canada might never wield more clout in its relations with Beijing than by leveraging its winter athletes. The only good reason to spend what it costs to bid for and host the games nowadays is in search of global prestige, which is why non-megalomaniacal countries are less and less interested. (The only other official bid for 2022 was Kazakhstan. It nearly won!) A winter games without Canada, which placed third in medals in each of the last three Olympics, is definitely a less prestigious games.
But it would be a hell of an unlikely escalation. Bien-pensant Canada still has terrible trouble wrapping its mind around the notion that China is even problematic. “It’s not our role to go in and tell someone else they’re wrong. Our role is to go in and work with them and learn,” outgoing Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil burbled in a recent Canada China Business Council video, as the National Post’s Tom Blackwell reported on Tuesday. “Let’s go learn. Let’s teach each other.”