Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on Wednesday after facing questions for days about whether Canada would stand alongside allies who have already announced similar plans.
“We are announcing today that we will not be sending any diplomatic representation to the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics this winter,” Trudeau said, adding that he did not believe the move by Canada or the allies would “surprise” China.
“Over the past few years, we have been very clear about our deep concerns regarding human rights violations and it is a continuation of us expressing our deep concerns for human rights violations.
Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have worked with the Canadian Olympic Committee in the past to try to ensure the safety of athletes when competing abroad.
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This work, she said, will continue in Beijing.
“In this particular situation, we want to make sure that our athletes have access to protective services,” she said, and noted that the work will also focus on the availability of consular support on site.
Pascale St-Onge, the Minister of Sports, said additional staff had been hired as part of the work.
“Everything will be in place to ensure the safety of the athletes,” said St-Onge.
READ MORE: Australia, UK join US in diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics
Calls have grown in recent days as Canada’s closest allies announced their intention not to send official representatives to the Beijing Olympics in February as part of a diplomatic boycott of human rights violations by China, especially against the ethnic Uyghur minority.
The US, UK and Australia all announced their decisions this week.
Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden, an Olympic gold medalist kayaker, said a diplomatic boycott is one of the tools at Canada’s disposal and he does not believe such a move would cause additional stress to athletes.
“My priority is to make sure that the athletes have the opportunity to compete, as well as their safety,” he said on Wednesday.
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“I don’t think athletes care which diplomats are there when they’re there to compete. Our athletes are professionals, and I think they have the ability to compete regardless of who is in the audience.
What is a diplomatic boycott?
A concept of a diplomatic boycott is different from that of a broader boycott.
While a normal boycott would typically see everyone involved in an event agreeing not to participate, concerns about an outright boycott of the Beijing Olympics are that it would unfairly penalize athletes who wish to compete this year. in China despite the country’s human rights violations.
Athletes train hard for years to qualify for the Olympics.
“Our athletes have worked extremely hard to get there. They have trained for hours, they have traveled the world, they have competed and it is only normal for them to have the chance to really move forward and participate in the Games. Olympics, ”Joly said on Wednesday.
“So this is a situation that needs to be treated diplomatically, and that is exactly what we are doing. “
READ MORE: US Ambassador to Canada expects countries to be ‘aligned’ on boycott of Beijing Olympics
A diplomatic boycott specifically refers to non-athletes. This would see countries that agree to participate in a boycott pledging not to send diplomatic missions or representatives to attend the ceremonies and events themselves.
Normally, participating countries usually send official representatives of their governments.
For example, the former Governor General of Canada, David Johnson, attended the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for six days as the country’s official representative.
READ MORE: Peng Shuai: Women’s tennis tour suspends events in China over concerns
But China faces growing global pressure over its persecution of Uyghurs, its crushing of internal dissent – including in Hong Kong – and the arbitrary detentions of two Canadians, who have since been released, in what was widely seen as a hostage-taking.
In addition, the regime’s contempt and aggression towards the rules-based international order has heightened concerns in a growing number of countries about the need to unite to publicly challenge Beijing’s conduct.
Added to this are international fears for the well-being of tennis star Peng Shuai, who disappeared from public view last month after alleging that a senior Chinese official had sexually assaulted her.
Concerns about her safety have since led the Women’s Tennis Association to suspend tournaments in China.
With files from Mike Le Couteur of Global News.
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