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U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics, will Canada do the same?

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OTTAWA —
Pressure is mounting on the Canadian government to commit to a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympic Games after the U.S. announced its intention to do so Monday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that government officials won’t be in attendance for the games, but athletes are permitted to compete.

“Athletes will be participating, we will be rooting for the athletes from home…this is just an indication that it cannot be business as usual, that not sending a diplomatic delegation sends that message,” she said.

Psaki said the U.S. has informed its allies of its decision but will “leave it to them” to make their own call about whether to attend in full or in part.

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Walking into the House of Commons before question period moments later, Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said a Canadian decision hadn’t been made.

Opposition MPs have been ramping up calls for some version of a boycott.

Earlier in the day on Monday, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said he’s been consulting with domestic and international Olympic committee officials about striking a balance between displaying Canada’s “profound displeasure” with China’s conduct while also respecting the right of athletes to compete.

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“We’ve been proposing moving the games, there wasn’t any interest by the Trudeau government in that. We proposed a diplomatic boycott – I think that’s the best thing we can do alongside our allies to show pressure but not to make the athletes pay the price for the conduct in Beijing,” he said.

In February, MPs voted to label China’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslims a genocide.

The Chinese government has been accused of mass surveillance and incarceration of thousands of Uyghur, forcing them into labour camps for the purposes of indoctrinating the mostly-Muslim minority into mainstream Chinese society.

It’s spurred international calls for governments to withhold some, if not all, participation from the 2022 winter games.

NDP MP and foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson also spoke to the issue on Monday, noting that there are Canadian parliamentarians banned from China, after the superpower targeted the parliamentary subcommittee on international human rights, which in the last Parliament was examining the treatment of the Uyghur population.

“If we did send a diplomatic mission, China is in fact choosing who gets to go on that mission…that in and of itself, to me, is problematic. But also I think there is huge problems having the Olympics in Beijing knowing that there’s genocide happening in that country,” she said.

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Last week, St-Onge said she respects the decision of Canadian athletes to attend.

“I totally respect their independence and the decision they’re making,” she said.

O’Toole called Canada’s relationship with China a “mess,” arguing for a more “principled-based approach” that shows Canada’s “economic interests in China will not dominate our concerns about human rights.”

His comments come amid news that Canada’s Ambassador to China Dominic Barton will step down from his post effective Dec. 31.

With a file from The Canadian Press.

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