The genocides in Canada and China compared

Magnus Fiskesjö's picture

The recent new revelations about Canada's Indigenous "residential schools" as part of the genocide against indigenous people (first nations) there (see for example https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-57592243 ), are horrifying, sobering, and must be recognized.

In the midst of the new revelations, it's been heartening to see that Canadian official representatives have forcefully and unambiguously rejected (https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/as-un-members-ask-about-uighurs-china-attacks-canada-s-human-rights-record-20210623-p583eg.html ) the Chinese regime's attempt to use the Canadian revelations to deflect from its own crimes today, as they continue to repeat the very same crimes today.  

Earlier, Canada's Parliament carefully investigated over two years (2018-20), and concluded it is indeed genocide as per the U.N. Convention against Genocide (https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/SDIR/news-release/10903199 ).

Yet some Canadian politicians have also sided with the perpetrators in the Chinese regime. Senator Yuen Pau Woo adopted the argument that because of what happened in Canada in the past, Canada cannot criticize China ( https://cbc.ca/1.6084057 ; https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/sen-woo-china-residential-schools-1.6084057 ). This is astonishingly illogical: if we know and understand the evil of what happened in Canada, we should speak up even more, when it happens again, today, and we should act sooner than the 100 years or so that it took to wake up in Canada and North America.   

The Chinese regime has confiscated hundreds of thousands of indigenous children to confine them in state "orphanages," They are taught only in the settler-colonial language, and made to forget their own language and culture. It's part of a massive campaign of gigantic proportions, taking place while their parents are detained in concentration camps to undergo brainwashing for the purpose of shedding their culture, or while they are transferred to forced labor, or worse. I'd say it's currently Earth's worst case of forced family separations -- the intention is clearly, just like in Canada in the past, to permanently destroy the targeted peoples.

For an overview of the campaign to destroy Uyghur culture, heritage, language and religion, and how -- just like in Canada in the past -- the destruction of culture forms a part of genocide, and also constitutes evidence for "genocide", see my recent piece, "Bulldozing Culture: China’s Systematic Destruction of Uyghur Heritage Reveals Genocidal Intent." Cultural Property News, June 23, 2021. https://culturalpropertynews.org/bulldozing-culture-chinas-systematic-destruction-of-uyghur-heritage-reveals-genocidal-intent/

For more on the Chinese state's mass abduction of children, listen to the third day of the hearings at the recent Uyghur Tribunal, held in  London on June 4-7, 2021, esp. Rian Thum's contributions in the expert witness panel on the 3rd day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWCwLvUIV0g

On the genocide, incl. further on child abductions, mass sterilization of Uyghur women and other aspects that have further confirmed the case as a genocide as per the UN Genocide Convention, see:  https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/evidence-of-china-uyghur-genocide-by-irwin-cotler-and-yonah-diamond-2021-06 ; also see my recent piece co-authored with (Canada-based) Uyghur activist Rukiye Turdush, on women and families as a major target of the Chinese genocide: https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/gsp/vol15/iss1/6/  

As for the formal, legal aspects of the comparison of past Canadian and the present-day Uyghur genocide, John Packer of the University of Ottawa spoke most eloquently -- especially in terms of how they are both state action, and therefore state responsibility: Canada's, and China's, now -- at the conference on "The Xinjiang Crisis: Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Justice," held at Newcastle University Sept. 1-3, 2021. Packer's presentation can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqP3KRVNOfo listen from 20:30 - 34:15; presentation entitled "Missteps and Myths of Genocide: The International Law of State Responsibility" (in Roundtable 5: "Pursuing Reparations for Xinjiang Harms: International Legal Channels, and Individual vs. State Responsibility").

For more, see this online bibliography: https://uhrp.org/bibliography/

We are not suffering a lack of evidence. Especially now, that the UN human rights commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, has abandoned her 4 year old demand to visit and inspect the genocide area (because the Chinese government blocked her access, https://www.reuters.com/world/china/un-rights-chief-regrets-lack-access-xinjiang-2021-09-13/ ), it is time not for more words of concern, but for solidarity and action -- especially from all who understand the horrors of the crimes perpetrated against indigenous people in North America.  

 

Magnus Fiskesjö

Anthropology, Cornell University