Trudeau is correct in theory, but wrong in this case.
It is true that we cannot throw around the “genocide” label carelessly, and that doing so could weaken and undermine true instances of genocide, both future and past.
However, there is ample evidence that a genocide is taking place in Xinjiang. As the Subcommittee on International Human Rights found last year, there is pervasive state surveillance in Xinjiang.
Cellphone activity is monitored, and various technologies are being used to track every movement, including through the use of CCTV, AI, facial recognition and biometric data. Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims are rounded up and arbitrarily detained in what are euphemistically called “re-education camps.”
As documented in a report by Adrian Zenz, women are forcibly sterilized and subject to forced birth control. And it has been documented that detainees are subject to unimaginable abuses in the camps, including systematic torture and rape.
As described by survivors to BBC News just this month, there is “an organized system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture,” and “their goal is to destroy everyone.”
It is true that not all atrocities amount to genocide. However, the atrocities occurring in Xinjiang have already been found, by multiple, credible bodies, to constitute genocide.
In October 2020, following multiple hearings on the subject, the Canadian Subcommittee on International Human Rights was “persuaded that the actions of the Chinese Communist Party constitute genocide as laid out in the Genocide Convention.” The Subcommittee then explicitly called on the Government of Canada to “recognize the acts being committed in Xinjiang against Uyghurs (as constituting) genocide.”
Reputable Canadian non-profit organizations immediately echoed these statements. In November 2020, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR) called on the Government of Canada to implement the Subcommittee’s recommendations and recognize the atrocities as constituting genocide.
Canada and other rights-respecting democracies need to step up, take concrete action to combat these crimes, and ensure that the words ‘never again’ mean something. This starts with calling it what it is: a genocide.
Sarah Teich is an international human rights lawyer, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, and a legal advisor to the Canadian Security Research Group.