The House of Commons unanimously passed a motion Wednesday recognizing Russian aggression in Ukraine as an act of genocide.
The motion was moved by NDP MP Heather McPherson after question period. It’s non-binding and does not require the Canadian government to take any action.
The motion says that the killing of Ukrainian civilians, the desecration of corpses, the forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to Russian territory and the torture and rape being perpetrated by Russian soldiers constitute genocide.
After the vote, McPherson said she was pleased to see it pass with the support of all parties and MPs in the Commons. She said she introduced the motion as a way to push the Liberal government to take stronger actions against Russia, particularly through sanctions.
“Sanctions have been implemented too slowly, they’ve been implemented very, very late, they’ve … given an opportunity for Russian oligarchs to hide their wealth so they have not been appropriate,” she said.
McPherson also said she wants to see more federal funding directed to the International Criminal Court to ensure it has the resources needed to conduct investigations into atrocities in Ukraine.
“From my perspective as a parliamentarian in the House of Commons, this is a tool to urge our government to do more,” she said. “This is a tool to say that the conflict in Ukraine is not over, that the support we’ve been providing has not been enough and we need to do more for the people of Ukraine.”
Earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden said that Russia’s actions in Ukraine constitute genocide. He later stated that he was not delivering a legal opinion and would let legal experts make a final determination.
Biden said that he used the word “genocide” because it had become clearer that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to “wipe out the idea of being able to be Ukrainian.”
Reuters quoted Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov telling reporters on a conference call that Russia “considers this kind of effort to distort the situation unacceptable” and that such words are “hardly acceptable from a president of the United States, a country that has committed well-known crimes in recent times.”
After Biden’s comments, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he thinks it’s “absolutely right” that “more people” are using the word genocide to describe Russia’s actions in Ukraine. McPherson said that she introduced the motion because Trudeau’s comments did not go far enough.
“One of the things we see with this government is that they’re very good at saying, ‘Well, you know, it seems like it might be – it smells, like, you know, whatever.’ But there’s no action taken,” she said.
“Today … they had to stand in the House and say that, yes, this is a genocide.”
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Earlier this month, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino announced that the RCMP was sending more officers to the International Criminal Court to help investigate claims that war crimes and crimes against humanity are taking place in Ukraine.
The seven special investigators sent to the International Criminal Court [ICC] were in addition to the three special RCMP investigators already deployed to ICC investigation teams, a government official told CBC News on background.
The additional investigators were tasked following a request from the ICC’s office of the prosecutor for assistance.