Mr. Speaker, the following reflects a consolidated response approved on behalf of Global Affairs Canada ministers. The promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canadian foreign policy and is a priority in the Government of Canada’s engagement with China. The nature and scale of the abuses by Chinese authorities of Uighurs and other ethnic and religious minorities, under the pretext of countering extremism, are deeply disturbing. The Government of Canada is alarmed by the mass arbitrary detentions, repressive surveillance, allegations of torture, mistreatment, forced labour, forced sterilization of women and mass arbitrary separation of children from their parents. These actions by the Chinese government are contrary to its own constitution, in violation of international human rights obligations and inconsistent with the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
Canada takes allegations of genocide very seriously. We will continue to work in close collaboration with our allies to push for these to be investigated through an international independent body and for impartial experts to access the region so that they can see the situation first-hand and report back.
Canada has continuously relayed its concerns about China’s actions directly to Chinese officials. Canada has also taken action to speak out at the United Nations in co-operation with partners. For example, in June 2020, during the 44th session of the HRC, Canada and 27 other countries signed a joint statement voicing concerns on the human rights situations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Recently, at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, on October 6, 2020, Canada co-signed, along with 38 other countries, a joint statement on the human rights situation in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. As part of joint communications, Canada and other countries have repeatedly called on China to allow unfettered access to Xinjiang to UN human rights experts and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Canada is judicious in its approach regarding when to deploy sanctions and/or draw on other courses of action in our diplomatic tool kit based on foreign policy priorities. The regulations enacted under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act allow the Government of Canada to target individuals who are, in the opinion of the government, responsible for, or complicit in, gross violations of internationally recognized human rights or acts of significant corruption. Canada takes the matter of listing individuals under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act very seriously. A rigorous due diligence process has been established to consider and evaluate possible cases of human rights violations or corruption anywhere in the world against the criteria set out in the act, within the context of other ongoing efforts to promote human rights and combat corruption. Our government believes that sanctions have the maximum impact when they are being imposed in collaboration with other countries.
Please also note that the trade commissioner service has updated its guidance for businesses on the risks of doing business in China, including risks related to human rights abuses. Ensuring companies adhere to responsible business practices is essential to manage social, reputational, legal and economic risks. The Government of Canada expects Canadian companies active abroad, in any market or country, to respect human rights, operate lawfully and conduct their activities in a responsible manner consistent with international standards such as the UN “Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights” and the OECD “Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises”. Among other things, the Government of Canada expects Canadian companies to adopt global best practices with respect to supply chain due diligence in order to eliminate the direct or indirect risk of involvement in any forced labour or other human rights abuses.
Please be assured that the promotion and protection of human rights are core priorities of Canada’s foreign policy. The Government of Canada will continue to raise its concerns regarding the human rights situation in Xinjiang and all of China, and will continue to call on China to live up to its international obligations.