Canadian lawmakers back resettlement of 10,000 Uyghur Muslims

OTTAWA (Reuters) -The Canadian parliament on Wednesday unanimously voted in favor of a non-binding proposal for the resettlement of 10,000 Uyghur Muslim refugees from China's Xinjiang region into Canada over two years.

The House of Commons voted 322-0 for Liberal member of parliament Sameer Zuberi's bill, which also called on the government to recognize that Uyghurs and other ethnic Turkic Muslims who have fled to third countries face "pressure and intimidation" by China to return.

While the passage of the bill does not compel Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to follow the proposal, the undivided support is likely to put pressure on his minority government to take action.

"Canada will always do its part in helping those in need of protection," Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a statement. "I am committed to working with members of all parties to advance the measures outlined in the motion adopted by the House of Commons today."

Rights groups accuse China of widespread abuses of Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority that numbers about 10 million in the western region of Xinjiang, including the mass use of forced labor in internment camps. China vigorously denies any abuses.

In 2021, Canada became one of the first countries to label China's treatment of the Uyghurs genocide. Canada was also among the countries that unsuccessfully tried to hold a debate at the United Nations last year about alleged human rights abuses by China against Muslims in Xinjiang.

Responding to a question about the proposal, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Thursday that Xinjiang's people live in peace and work happily, while human rights safeguards for all ethnicities in the region were continuously improving.

"We urge the Canadian side to respect facts and truth, stop using the Xinjiang question for ulterior motives and political manipulation, stop spreading false information and misleading the public," Mao said.

Diplomatic relations between Canada and China have been strained for various reasons over recent years.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing;Editing by Sandra Maler, Robert Birsel)