Trudeau Rips Into China After Tit-for-Tat Diplomacy at UN

Justin Trudeau had harsh words for China after Beijing called for a United Nations probe into crimes against Indigenous children in Canada.

The prime minister, asked about the move Tuesday, slammed the “systemic abuse and human rights violations” against Uyghur Muslims, as well as the situations in Hong Kong and Tibet.

Chinese diplomats raised Canada’s treatment of its First Nations in an apparent response to Ottawa joining an international effort to force Beijing to allow UN officials access to Xinjiang province.

“The journey of reconciliation is a long one, but it is a journey that we are on. China is not recognizing that there is even a problem. That’s a pretty fundamental difference,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. “That is why Canadians, and people from around the world, are speaking up for people like the Uighurs who find themselves voiceless, faced with a government that will not recognize what’s happening to them.”

Trudeau’s comments will likely further strain ties between Canada and its second-largest trading partner. Relations have soured steadily since the 2018 arrest of a Chinese telecommunications executive on a U.S. extradition request and the subsequent detention of two Canadians by authorities in Beijing. This year, Canada’s legislature passed a motion designating the treatment of the Uyghurs as genocide.

China hit back at Trudeau’s comments Wednesday, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian saying at a regular press briefing in Beijing that Canada isn’t in a position to criticize the Asian nation.

“They should reflect their own poor record on human rights,” he said. “Canadian society’s systemic racial discrimination against minorities is no better than its neighbor.”

China’s move at the UN -- backed by allies including Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Syria and North Korea -- stems from the discovery last month of the remains of 215 children, some as young as 3, at a boarding school in British Columbia that closed in 1978.

Established in the 19th century, Canada’s residential school system forcibly removed Indigenous children from their families to educate them in church-run institutions. A government-backed Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that the program constituted “cultural genocide” in 2015.

“We are deeply concerned about the serious human rights violations against the Indigenous people in Canada,” Jiang Duan, a senior official at China’s mission to the UN, said in Geneva, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “Historically, Canada robbed the Indigenous people of the land, killed them and eradicated their culture.”

Trudeau said that Canada has accepted the findings of the panel, which spent seven years investigating the mistreatment of Indigenous people at the hands of the state.

“Where is China’s truth and reconciliation commission? Where is their truth? Where is the openness that Canada has always shown and the responsibility that Canada has taken for the terrible mistakes of the past?” Trudeau said.

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