Canada’s parliament passed a motion on Monday saying China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region does constitute genocide.
Conservative lawmaker Michael Chong said: “We can no longer ignore this. We must call it for what it is – a genocide.”
This will pressure Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to follow suit.
The motion was brought by the opposition Conservative Party. Trudeau and his Cabinet abstained from the vote.
The motion also calls on the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing if the treatment continues.
Lingering diplomatic tensions between the two countries flared up after Canada arrested Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in 2018 on a US warrant, and in a tit-for-tat move China detained two Canadians on spying charges.
China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centres” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills, and which others have called concentration camps. Beijing denies accusations of abuses in Xinjiang.
Trudeau has been reluctant to use the word genocide, suggesting that seeking broad consensus among Western allies on Chinese human rights issues would be the best approach.
He said on Friday, after speaking to fellow G7 leaders, “Moving forward multilaterally will be the best way to demonstrate the solidarity of Western democracies that are extremely concerned by reports of what’s going on in Xinjiang.”
Trudeau and US President Joe Biden will hold a virtual bilateral meeting on Tuesday afternoon, and relations with China are likely to be discussed, Reuters reports.
Former president Donald Trump – on his last full day in office last month – said China had committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” by repressing Uighur Muslims.
The Biden administration is trying to ensure that the genocide declaration is upheld, according to his pick to be ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Cong Peiwu, the Chinese ambassador to Ottawa, denied accusations of genocide.
“Western countries are in no position to say what the human rights situation in China looks like,” Cong said in an interview before the vote. “There is no so-called genocide in Xinjiang at all.”