Canadian News Feb 4, 2021 7:14 PM EST

Canada's Olympic teams will not boycott Beijing 2022 games despite country's human rights abuses

"The choices are to pull out, to barricade ourselves, to divide, to further polarize and say out of protest we're not going to go, or to engage and be part of a conversation, to amplify voices, to speak our mind on things that are important to us and to participate in the Games."

Canada's Olympic teams will not boycott Beijing 2022 games despite country's human rights abuses
Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal, QC
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Canada's Olympic teams will not boycott the Beijing 2022 games, despite the country's ongoing genocide of the Uyghur people, and calls from human rights groups.

Canadian Olympic Committee CEO David Shoemaker and Paralympic CEO Karen O'Neill told The Canadian Press that a boycott against the games would prove ineffective.

"We only really have two choices here," Shoemaker told The Canadian Press. "The choices are to pull out, to barricade ourselves, to divide, to further polarize and say out of protest we're not going to go, or to engage and be part of a conversation, to amplify voices, to speak our mind on things that are important to us and to participate in the Games."

"When faced with those choices and the lessons learned from Moscow in 1980 and L.A. in 1984, the choice is clear."

Canada withdrew from the 1980's Olympics held in Russia following the country's invasion of Afghanistan

Among the human rights groups calling for Canada to withdraw from the games include groups representing Tibetans, Uyghurs, Inner Mongolians, Hong Kongers, and Taiwanese, who say they are calling for a boycott "to ensure they are not used to embolden the Chinese government's appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent."

"We have serious concerns in particular about what's happening to Muslim Uyghurs in Western China, and have discussed that with the Canadian government and the Canadian ambassador to China," said Shoemaker.

"They've assured us that it's their top priority and being addressed on a government-to-government basis."

"We therefore see our role in this to deliver our teams to Games and be part of a conversation to amplify stories and to inspire and unite."

"Canadian Olympians and Paralympians are very socially conscious and they're very aware of what's going on in China," he said.

"I've spoken with the athletes' commission about that and we've begun to tackle similarly, what kind of programs within our control can we do to advance the very causes that we think are being challenged or are in peril in China right now."

Shoemaker also pointed to similar calls for boycotts for the Sochi Winter Games held in 2014.

"I understand there were similarly some calls for boycott because of an anti-LGBTQ-plus set of laws and rules in Russia that were very hostile to Team Canada," Shoemaker said.

"We made the decision, a difficult one, to go, but to strengthen our resolve around those kinds of programs and messages here in Canada."

"We now have among the most inclusive programming with an LGBTQ-plus focus you could imagine, which is a direct result of Team Canada competing in Sochi and being part of a conversation."

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