By Andrew Chen
February 1, 2023
Liberal MP for Pierrefonds-Dollard Sameer Zuberi speaks during a news conference on Feb. 1, 2023 in Ottawa. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)
MPs have voted unanimously in favour of a motion that calls on the federal government to resettle 10,000 Uyghurs in Canada over the next two years, in an effort to support those fleeing an ongoing genocide by Beijing.
Introduced by Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi, the private member’s motion was passed in Parliament on Feb. 1 with a unanimous vote of 322-0.
“What just happened was historic,” Zuberi said in a press conference after the vote. “This was the first time that cabinet pronounced itself on the issue of the Uyghurs.”
The latest motion, M-62, calls on Ottawa to take further action to support members of the Uyghur community in China, as well as those living abroad, to escape Beijing’s persecution.
The motion urged Ottawa to recognize that Uyghurs and Turkic Muslims who have fled to other countries face harassment and intimidation by Beijing to return to China, where they’re at “serious risk of mass arbitrary detention, mass arbitrary separation of children from their parents, forced sterilization, forced labour, torture and other atrocities.”
M-62 further asked the government to acknowledge that many of the host countries are also facing “continued diplomatic and economic pressure” from China to detain and deport Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, “leaving them without a safe haven in the world.”
Experts have estimated that one to three million Uyghurs are being arbitrarily detained in internment camps.
The Chinese authorities have previously denied the existence of such camps. Facing increasing international scrutiny, the regime shifted in August 2018 to frame such camps as “vocational training facilities.”
A facility believed to be a reeducation camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, in Artux, north of Kashgar in China’s western Xinjiang region, on June 2, 2019. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)
To address the ongoing persecution, M-62 asks the government to leverage the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program to expedite the entry into Canada of 10,000 Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, over two years starting in 2024.
It also asks that following the adoption of the motion, a report be presented in the House within 120 sitting days detailing how to implement the refugee resettlement plan. MPs also voted unanimously on Feb. 1, to amend M-62, shortening this period to 100 sitting days.
The amendment, introduced by NDP MP Jenny Kwan, also asked the government to “ensure corresponding additional immigration levels in the refugee streams so that other persecuted members in the global community seeking safety in Canada are not impacted” by the expedition of the 10,000 Uyghurs to Canada.
‘Many People Sacrificed’
Zuberi said there are approximately 1,600 documented cases of Uyghurs being deported or detained in third countries at the behest of Beijing since 1997, citing a report from the U.S.-based Wilson Center.
“What’s happening to the Uyghur people is unacceptable,” Zuberi said.
Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, said many people have sacrificed to pass the motion and to stand up to Beijing, including many of his own family members.
“I received a phone call on Jan. 16 from Chinese security officials with the presence of my cousin, and I learned that my two sisters already died in concentration camps, and my three brothers disappeared, and that my mother also died,” Tohti said at the press conference.
“They (Chinese security officials) called me just to stop this initiative,” he said.
“Many people sacrificed. This is not easy. Doing advocacy against China is not easy,” he added. “Many of our community members in Canada, Uyghur-Canadians, sacrificed their family members just to speak up. And for this reason, we value this motion.”