Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday Canada will join a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics.
He said the country is “extremely concerned” about China’s human rights abuses and has been discussing the matter with allies.
“That is why we are announcing today that we will not be sending any diplomatic representation to the Beijing Olympic, Paralympic Games this winter,” Trudeau said.
“Our athletes have been training for years and are looking forward to compete at the highest level against athletes from around the world and they will continue to have all of our fullest support.”
The United States was first to announce a diplomatic boycott Monday, meaning American athletes would still compete in Beijing but no U.S. political officials would attend.
Australia and the United Kingdom have both now followed suit.
They cite human rights concerns including allegations of genocide against the Muslim Uyghur minority in China’s Xinjiang province.
China denies those allegations and is accusing the United States of upending the political neutrality of sport.
David Cohen, the new U.S. ambassador in Canada, said Tuesday he expected Canada to join the boycott.
“I have a high level of confidence that Canada and the United States will be aligned on our China policy, including our policy with respect to the Olympics,” he said.
Canada’s diplomatic relationship with China is still strained following nearly three years of tension over China’s detention of two Canadians. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were finally released from Chinese prison in September.
Canada always alleged they were detained in retaliation for its decision to arrest Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States, which wanted her extradited there to face fraud charges.
The two Michaels, as Kovrig and Spavor came to be called, were freed the same day Meng struck a plea deal with the U.S. and was released from Canada.
Opposition Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said he supports a diplomatic boycott because it allows Canadian athletes a chance to compete while sending the message that Canada disapproves of China’s treatment of the Muslim Uyghurs.
At the same time, O’Toole criticized Trudeau for taking too long to make other decisions related to China, such as whether to ban Huawei from Canada’s 5G networks.
“He needs to start getting serious on China.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2021.