A wave of public disgust threatens to overwhelm the federal government’s practice of accommodating Beijing and the deeply embedded China lobby.
That the pantomime has worked so successfully and for so long is as disturbing as it is remarkable, but at last, the jig is up. The last straw will be remembered as Trudeau’s equivocations and dissembling about the Xi regime’s savage oppression of the Muslim peoples of Xinjiang, which Trudeau invited us all to interrogate this week as a discursive problematization of the word “genocide.”
Just which official agency or government department might be tasked with the i-dotting and t-crossing calligraphy Trudeau would require in his newfound concern with legal precision when it comes to the word “genocide” was not immediately evident. The international human rights scholar and former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, who has suffered no such qualms in identifying genocide as the crime the Xi regime is committing against Xinjiang’s Muslim Uyghurs, has suggested Trudeau could seek advice by way of a direct reference to the Supreme Court of Canada.
But it seems unlikely that this would adequately serve Trudeau’s purpose of punting a decision about Canada’s participation in the Olympics down the road a ways, and in any case, the federal government has outsourced the decision to the Canada Olympic Committee, and the COC says it’s all about “diplomacy,” which is a federal responsibility. So there matters sit, with Trudeau stroking his chin, feebly supported by a dwindling coterie of Liberals encouraging us all to deconstruct and unpack the term “genocide” and otherwise pity the poor Canadian athletes who so desperately yearn to shine at the Winter Games.
So it’s taking the spectre of genocide – a real-world genocide that meets several conditions laid out in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide – to threaten a rupture in the practice that has served the Trudeau government so well in managing public opinion when it comes to its dealings with China. Ordinarily, this is how it works:
A wave of public disgust threatens to overwhelm the federal government’s practice of accommodating Beijing and the interests of Canada’s deeply embedded China lobby. The government responds by putting on a show of action, always of course in Canada’s national interest, in line with Canada’s values, in consultation with Canada’s allies and so on. Before anybody notices it’s all been smoke, mirrors and deftly crafted talking points, it’s on to the next exercise in message-management.
Just this week, for instance, the Trudeau government put on a great show, two years in the making, as we approached the 800th day of Beijing’s spiteful and sadistic abduction and imprisonment of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, which was clearly in retaliation for Canada’s detention of Huawei billionaire and Communist Party darling Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant arising from 13 counts of fraud and sanctions evasion.
Then there was all the fuss last year about the measures Canada was taking in response to Beijing’s immolation of Hong Kong’s autonomy and its evisceration of Hong Kong’s democratic movement. The federal government boasted that Canada was the first to terminate its extradition treaty with Hong Kong – as if there was a judge anywhere in Canada who would extradite a dissident Hongkonger to face the draconian National Security Law Beijing has imposed there.
And last year’s announcement that Canada would accept refugee applications from HongKongers was a decision made not by the government but by the independent Immigration Refugee Board. And the changes to immigration rules advertised as making it easier for Hongkongers to flee to Canada in fact contained nothing of the kind. And the new rules purportedly aimed at prohibiting the products from slave labour in Xinjiang contained no penalties for corporations that traffic in slave goods. It hasn’t mattered that the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service has warned repeatedly that China generally and Huawei particularly pose grave threats to Canada’s national security; the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council continues to fund Huawei’s research collaborations with Canadian universities.
But it’s hard to “fine-tune” genocide, which the Xi regime is carrying out methodically and brutally in Xinjiang. Concentration camps. A gulag of slave factories. The obliteration of ancient mosques and holy sites. Forced sterilization. The criminalization of Islamic religious practices. The separation of children from their parents. The mass experiment in all-encompassing, ever-present surveillance.
Kicking all this down the road in the hope that Canadians won’t notice that their government is content to go along with this barbarism won’t work anymore.
The jig is up.