Politics

'Absolutely right' to call Russia's actions in Ukraine genocide, Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it's good that more people are referring to Russia's actions in Ukraine as genocide, citing a number of human rights violations in the country following the Russian invasion.

Prime minister stops short of using the word himself, saying there's an official process

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen in Laval, Que., on Wednesday. Trudeau stopped short of calling Russia's targeting of Ukrainian civilians a 'genocide,' but said it's right that more people are using the word. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he thinks it's "absolutely right" more people are using the word genocide to describe Russia's actions in Ukraine, but stopped short of using the word himself.

"There are official processes around determinations of genocide, but I think it's absolutely right that more people be talking and using the word genocide in terms of what Russia is doing, what Vladimir Putin has done," Trudeau said at a news conference in Laval, Que.

Trudeau pointed to Russian military attacks on civilians, including the targeting of health-care facilities and train stations, as well as sexual violence in the conflict. He also said Russia is attacking "Ukrainian identity and culture."

"These are all things that are war crimes that Putin is responsible for, these are all things that are crimes against humanity," he said.

Trudeau said the Canadian government is taking action in response, including petitioning the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe alleged Russian war crimes and by deploying RCMP investigators to the ICC.

WATCH Trudeau comments on 'genocide' in Ukraine:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agrees Ukraine war is genocide

2 months ago
Duration 1:09
For the first time, Trudeau agreed that the war in Ukraine is a genocide, as mounting evidence is collected during Russia's ongoing invasion.

Trudeau was responding to a question about U.S. President Joe Biden's use of the word to describe Russia's activities in Ukraine.

"Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half a world away," Biden said at a news conference Tuesday in Iowa.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Biden said he used the word because, "it's become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being able to be Ukrainian."

Biden said evidence is mounting that Russia's actions constitute genocide, but noted his use of the word isn't a legal declaration.

"We'll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies," he said.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks while visiting a POET Bioprocessing plant in Menlo, Iowa, on Tuesday. Biden used the word 'genocide' for the first time to describe Russia's actions in Ukraine. (Al Drago/Reuters)

What qualifies as genocide?

The United Nations' definition of genocide under its Genocide Convention includes both a physical and mental element.

The former includes: "Killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group," and, "Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

WATCH Canadian parliament should initiate hearings into mass atrocities in Ukraine: former justice minister

Canadian parliament should initiate hearings into mass atrocities in Ukraine: former justice minister

2 months ago
Duration 8:25
Former justice minister Irwin Cotler calls on Canadian parliament to initiate hearings to determine if the mass atrocities allegedly perpetrated by Russian forces in Ukraine constitute genocide: "We do have a responsibility...to prevent as well as punish acts of genocide."

But the mental element stipulates that genocide must also include clear intent.

"The intent is the most difficult element to determine," a UN article on genocide says

"To constitute genocide, there must be a proven intent on the part of perpetrators to physically destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. Cultural destruction does not suffice, nor does an intention to simply disperse a group."

The law also requires that victims be deliberately targeted, the article says.

WATCH Is Russia committing genocide?

Is Russia committing genocide?

2 months ago
Duration 2:43
Rebecca Hamilton, associate professor at American University, explains why making the legal determination of genocide can be challenging, even if the images and accounts out of Ukraine are consistent with war crimes.

Trudeau has previously said that the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls across Canada constitutes genocide, agreeing with the conclusions of a national inquiry.

Trudeau was absent for Parliament's vote last year on whether China's treatment of the Uyghur minority meets the UN's definition of genocide. The foreign affairs minister at the time, Marc Garneau, abstained. The motion passed 266-0.

A person departs the United Nations headquarters building in New York City on March 1. International law requires that genocidal intent must be proven in any UN declaration of genocide. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

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