Mr. Speaker, I move that the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented to the House on Friday, April 29, be concurred in.
I appreciate the opportunity to open debate, a debate that I understand will be, by unanimous consent, continuing this evening, on the sixth report, which deals with the ongoing injustices facing Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims and the work that we need to do as a House in response to it.
I am grateful for the work of the immigration committee. This is a unanimous report that highlights many important issues, and I want to start the debate by reading points from the report into the record and then discussing them.
The report states:
In light of the fact that Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in China face an ongoing genocide, and in light of the fact that those in third countries are at continuing risk of detention and deportation back to China, where they face serious risk of arbitrary detention, torture, and other atrocities, the committee calls on the government to:
a) extend existing special immigration measures to Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, including the expansion of biometrics collection capabilities in third countries and the issuance of Temporary Resident Permits and single journey travel documents to those without a passport;
b) allow displaced Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in third countries, who face risk of detention and deportation back to China, to seek refuge in Canada;
c) waive the UNHCR refugee determination;
d) and the government provide a comprehensive response by letter to the committee within 30 days.
This motion follows an important step taken by the House about a year and a half ago when the House voted to recognize the Uighur genocide. It was a unanimous vote of all who voted in this place. As members will recall, cabinet abstained and still has not declared its position, but the vote that will take place on this motion, because it is a vote to agree with this report, will provide cabinet and the government with another opportunity to declare their position with respect to the Uighur genocide.
I reflect as well on the fact that much of this conversation was started in the House with the recognition of the genocide motion, but there has been much more discussion in the international community and evidence that has come out since. Just recently, there was the report of Michelle Bachelet. There were significant efforts to influence that report and there were significant limitations with respect to the work she was able to do, but, nonetheless, very damning conclusions came out of that report.
Various analyses have shown forced sterilization, systemic sexual violence targeting Uighur women, people being taken away and put in concentration camps, clear violations of the UN definition as it pertains to genocide and states that are party to that have an obligation to recognize and respond in those cases. This report recognizes and reaffirms that.
The focus of this report is on other measures that the House and the government need to take in response to these events. I want to focus on the ones in this report, as well as other additional measures that can and should be taken.
Following that recognition, even while the government has still not declared its position, other members of Parliament have been trying to put forward constructive initiatives that respond to the question of what Canada can do to advance the issue of justice and human rights for Uighurs. There have been a number of different areas where proposals have been put forward in the House.
This report speaks on additional immigration measures that have been put forward, and I know that later this week we will be having the first hour of debate on Motion No. 62. I should have made note of my colleague's constituency name before, but my colleague from somewhere in Montreal is proposing that and we will be debating that for the first hour on Wednesday. We are seeing a number of different initiatives on the immigration front.
We recognize the reality that Uighurs in China obviously often struggle to get to safety, but, increasingly, the efforts of the Government of China to have influence beyond its borders are creating greater and greater challenges, escalating pressures on refugees who have fled, maybe thought they were in a safe place and are now facing intimidation and persecution that is being pushed on the countries where they are resident as a result of pressure from the Government of China.
As it relates to third countries, it is worth mentioning the case of Huseyin Celil, who is a Canadian citizen detained in China. This was a case where he did not travel to China. Mr. Celil was in Uzbekistan, but was taken from Uzbekistan and sent back to China, where he has been detained for over a decade and a half. Underlining that is the fact that we need to recognize how CCP pressure on third countries can lead to people being sent back and facing human rights violations in the process.
Canada can be a place of safety for these folks in the Uighur diaspora who have left China but who are still facing the risks of potential persecution and repatriation in the countries where they are.
That is why Canada should be looking at strengthening special immigration measures. Our view on this side of the House is that we need to recognize the important role played by private sponsoring organizations and a strategy for responding to persecution and supporting victims of human rights abuses should involve collaboration between governments and private sponsoring entities.
We need to recognize that there may not be resources within those private sponsoring entities to cover all of the needs that exist, and there could be vehicles for joint sponsorship. There could even be cases, perhaps, where the government provides the funding but organizations on the ground here in Canada play a specific role in welcoming newcomers.
All of the data suggests that those who are privately sponsored have a greater level of success once they are here in Canada, so we should look for opportunities in the process to engage private sponsors, such as mosques, churches, synagogues, faith groups, community groups and civil society, to help people acclimatize to coming to Canada. We recognize that this is not just a question of state policy, but the process of welcoming refugees is a collective effort that all Canadians can be involved in. I think, in many cases, people from different backgrounds and different experiences want to be involved, and they certainly get a lot out of it.
I want, as well, to discuss some of the other measures that we need to be taking about, coming out of where we were a year and a half ago.
I have sponsored a private member's bill in this place that comes from the other place, from Senator Ataullahjan. Bill S-223 is a bill that would combat forced organ harvesting and trafficking. The bill would make it a criminal offence for a person to go abroad and receive an organ taken without consent. This is a private member's bill that would have Canada doing what it can to combat this horrific practice of forced organ harvesting and trafficking.
I do want to note that, unfortunately, the progress of Bill S-223 has been stalled. It has been sitting before the foreign affairs committee for months and months. We have not been able to get it adopted and sent back to the House. In fact, I was not originally scheduled to be here in the House right now. I was scheduled to be testifying before the foreign affairs committee, but at the last minute, the meeting scheduled to conduct hearings on Bill S-223 was cancelled by the Chair. That has further delayed the process of bringing this bill forward.
The bill to combat forced organ harvesting and trafficking is pertinent now because we are hearing more about Uighurs being victims of this practice, but it is something that has been going on for decades. In particular, the Falun Gong community has highlighted the abuse of forced organ harvesting and trafficking and how it impacts their community.
It has actually been 15 years that parliamentarians have been working on a bill to combat forced organ harvesting and trafficking. Borys Wrzesnewskyj was first to bring one forward. Irwin Cotler also had a bill.
Since I was elected in 2015, I have been working on this with Senator Ataullahjan through the last three Parliaments. This bill has passed the Senate three times, twice in its current form. It has passed the House once in its current form. It has been studied multiple times by Senate committees and by a House committee, so I think it is time that we finally get it done, if we are able to end the logjam around it at the foreign affairs committee. It should not be about any one individual. This is a bill that will save lives if it is passed. I hope we are able to get it done.
A lot of work, as well, has been done on this issue of forced labour. There are significant concerns about how Uighurs are victims of forced labour and, in general, how Canada's laws to combat forced labour are totally inadequate. There is much more work that needs to be done. Another bill before the foreign affairs committee, also with an unclear timeline around it, is Bill S-211, a bill from a colleague on the government side. It has broad support in the House, and Conservatives supported fast-tracking it at second reading, but it is, again, not moving forward at the moment.
We need to move forward with these bills that are currently before the foreign affairs committee. Bill S-223 and Bill S-211 are two excellent bills. One is on organ harvesting, and the other is aimed at addressing an issue of forced labour.
Bill S-211 would create a reporting mechanism. It is an important step forward, but the other thing we need to do is recognize that in the Uighur region, for example, there is a very significant, very large issue of forced labour. I support measures, such as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in the United States, a bipartisan piece of legislation, that would recognize the particular issues in that region, and perhaps in other regions, where there are really significant and coordinated state-pushed efforts to have forced labour. We need to specifically designate those regions.
We need to look at, for instance, Bill S-204, a bill put forward by Senator Housakos that is not in the House yet. It is still in the other place. That bill would impose a ban on the import of any goods coming out of Xinjiang or East Turkistan, the region where Uighurs are in the majority. The goal of this is to recognize the reality that so much of what is produced and exported in that region is tainted by slave labour. We need to have an approach that recognizes the particular risks in this region and targets that region as well. That is another issue that we need to move on legislatively and there may be other measures we can consider that involve the designation of specific regions. This would target the specific regions in the world where we know there is a very high level of forced labour and a high risk that goods coming out of there will have involve slave labour.
There are many mainstream brands that people will be familiar with, that they may use products from, that import products from that part of the world. It is very concerning. The government announced a new policy on combatting these imports, but, in fact, there was only one shipment that was ever stopped and it was subsequently released. Therefore, we are clearly lacking in this area, and there is much more work that needs to be done.
In terms of some of the legislative proposals that are coming forward, I want to also recognize Bill C-281, a bill that had its first hour of debate recently and has its second hour of debate coming up soon. It is from my colleague in Northumberland—Peterborough South.
Bill C-281 is the international human rights act. It contains a number of measures that would push forward Canada's response on international human rights, including requiring the minister of foreign affairs to table an annual report regarding the government's work on international human rights, include listing, as part of that report, prisoners of conscience, which is of particular concern.
It would also create a mechanism by which individuals could be nominated for sanctions under the Magnitsky act and a parliamentary committee could pass a motion suggesting that someone be sanctioned under the Magnitsky act. If that motion were to pass, the minister would be obliged to provide some kind of a response. This parliamentary trigger mechanism for Magnitsky sanctions has been adopted in other countries. It is very important because a Magnitsky sanctions tool, though a powerful tool, still leaves the discretion entirely in the hands of the government.
There have been many countries around the world where there are serious human rights abuses, and the government has actually failed to sanction anybody from that country. There has been very limited use of Magnitsky sanctions in response to the Uighur genocide. That is why I support this proposal from my colleague to have a parliamentary trigger mechanism, so that a parliamentary committee could, if not compel the government to sanction someone, at least compel the government to provide some kind of a response with respect to why they are or are not considering moving forward with a sanction.
These are some of the measures that we have moved on, from the act of recognition by Parliament a year and a half ago to now, trying to propose concrete, constructive measures that would see Canada play a greater and greater role in combatting this ongoing injustice. We have talked, of course, about the immigration measures that are called for in this report as well as immigration measures that have been put forward in other initiatives that we have seen. We have talked about the issues of forced organ harvesting and trafficking and the legislation that has been put forward on that.
We have talked about different kinds of trade measures, such as those contained in Bill S-211 from Senator Miville-Dechêne, as well as Bill S-204 from Senator Housakos. Bill S-211, which is the general reporting mechanism requiring companies to be involved in reporting on these issues, also has the designation of particular regions of concern and the issues that come out of those. Then there are the other measures in the International Human Rights Act from my colleague, in Bill C-281.
As such, we have seen many different legislative initiatives. I guess one thing to acknowledge that they all have in common is that they are all private members' initiatives, so we are seeing a flurry of activity from individual members, many from our side, many from the Senate and some from other parties as well. However, we have not really seen any government legislation that is aimed at closing the gap, and I think members understand the processes of this House and the long and arduous journey every private member's bill has to make. I have seen it myself in the work I have done on the organ harvesting and trafficking issue. I work on a piece of legislation, and every time it is actually voted on it is unanimous, yet there are so many steps it has to go through, little amendments here and there, that it ends up not getting done.
We are in the third Parliament in which I have worked on this bill, and it has been attempted in two previous Parliaments as well, so there is this long journey private members' bills have to go on, and the risks are the same for other good private members' bills that are responding to urgent and present human rights concerns. That is why the government should take a look at some of these initiatives and maybe consider putting forward proposals that advance them through government legislation.
There is so much more that needs to be done on this issue of forced labour, like even getting it out of government procurement, never mind addressing the import of products of forced labour that come into the private sector. We are relying on private members' legislation to do that job, and we should support these private members' bills, but the government should be willing to lead on this and provide really comprehensive solutions.
One of the areas the government can particularly lead in combatting the injustice facing Uighurs is in working more closely with our allies on combatting the importation of products made from forced labour. There is obviously a lot of tracing and data work that is required in terms of blocking out products made from forced labour from coming into Canada, and this is why we can benefit from sharing information with our allies. If we have consistent laws and are sharing information around forced labour, then we can be more effective working in collaboration.
In fact, we have already started down this road by recognizing as part of our trade deal with the United States and Mexico an obligation around combatting forced labour, but Canada needs to now live up to that obligation. We can share information. We can adjust our policies to really strengthen the work that is required to prevent products from forced labour from coming into this country.
In conclusion, I want to recognize the incredible work that has been done by the Uighur community in particular, but more broadly by other communities, like the Muslim community in general and many other communities that are coming alongside as allies in support of justice and human rights, who have been advocating on these various points related to the injustices the Uighurs have faced.
The information has very clearly been exposed, despite the best efforts of certain actors to suppress it. It is now widely known: the existence of a campaign to put people in concentration camps, forced sterilization and systemic sexual violence. The subcommittee on international human rights two years ago heard brutal testimony from survivors about what had happened, and I reflected at the time on this quote from William Wilberforce, who said, “[Y]ou may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.”
Members of Parliament answered that call; the subcommittee on international human rights was unanimous and the House was unanimous, but the cabinet has still been silent and unclear, so this motion would provide the cabinet with an opportunity to vote again on the question, since this motion would reaffirm a recognition of the genocide.
It would also go further. We are not waiting for the cabinet; we are pushing forward with measures that are required in terms of pushing for additional immigration measures, and I have talked about the need to combat forced organ harvesting and trafficking, the need to bring in new trade measures and the important additional measures in Bill C-281.
I hope members will support this concurrence and the other measures that are urgently required to stand with our Uighur brothers and sisters, who face so much injustice in China as well as threats even after they have fled.