A Manitoba couple is applauding Canada's House of Commons for declaring what is going on in China as genocide.
Gary Dyck spent ten years living in northwest China prior to accepting the role as Executive Director at Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach in 2018.
Dyck says when he moved there, he immediately noticed the systemic racism that existed within the government towards the Uighurs, which are Turkic Muslims. Relations were hostile and by 2016 there was increased security and policing in the area he lived.
Dyck says a year later it was very evident that fewer and fewer people were out on the street.
According to reports, there are between one and three million Uighurs that have been detained and placed into camps referred to as re-education schools. One of these camps was just a 12-minute drive from Dyck's residence. Dyck describes them as looking like an apartment complex with a high-level security wall, razor wire and lookout towers.
At first, the camps were not openly talked about, Dyck says. That changed once it became obvious what was going on behind closed doors. Soon, relations changed and Uighurs lived very fearful lives, choosing to stay to themselves, afraid that they too would be dragged to these camps. Dyck says this is the greatest incarceration of a people since the holocaust.
Canada's House of Commons voted unanimously in favour Monday of a Conservative motion declaring as genocide the acts committed against ethnic Muslim Uighurs in China's Xinjiang province.
Dozens of Liberal MPs supported the Conservative motion, which passed by a 266-0 margin in the 338-seat Commons.
"It was a great encouragement to me," says Dyck. "It's one of those examples to me, one of those moments in history where it shows democracy works."
Dyck says this validates their experience.
"I feel so glad to hear this," shares Andrea, Dyck's wife. "It feels like it's been a long time coming."
Provencher Member of Parliament Ted Falk says the information that Members of Parliament have received in regards to what Uighurs are going through in China is appalling. He adds there is no doubt that a genocide is happening.
Falk says they are being rounded up for things like their religion, making international phone calls, travelling to the wrong region, the way they dress, their appearance, the names of their children, the music they are playing and even for crying at a funeral.
Falk says they are being dragged away to re-education facilities, which he refers to as concentration camps. There, they become victims of forced sterilization, repeated rape and having their organs harvested. They are placed into slave labour and children are forcibly separated from their families and then brainwashed into communist party propaganda.
"As a government, we need to take an official position on the rights of individuals and people groups and not be so concerned with repercussions," adds Falk.
MPs this week also voted for a Bloc Quebecois amendment to expand the motion so that it would also call upon the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Olympic Games out of China if the genocide continues.
"I agree with that," says Dyck. "China will feel that as the host of the Olympics that they are being validated by the world and able to just put on the show. So that I think is a good next step to kind of get their attention."
Dyck says he is also asking people to pray for the situation.
"Prayer I think is a big thing, for the hearts of the people, the heart of the government to soften," says Dyck. "To stop with the rhetoric and let's deal with the people and the lives at stake here."
At a local level, Dyck says he is working with the Canadian Museum For Human Rights in Winnipeg to put on an awareness event in April during Canada's Genocide Awareness Month.
Meanwhile, Dyck encourages Manitobans and Canadians to reconsider their words when they suggest our governments are removing our freedoms through COVID-19 restrictions.
Dyck saw firsthand in China what it means for the government to take away freedoms, and says what is going on in Canada is much different.
"We have a government that cares. Sometimes we question and they make mistakes, but we do have a government that actually cares for its people," he stresses. "This is not evil what we're seeing happen in Canada with our government."
With information from The Canadian Press.