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Canada's House backs a motion recognizing Russia's actions in Ukraine as genocide

A mourner attends the funeral of a family of three in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Friday.
Sergei Supinsky
AFP via Getty Images
A mourner attends the funeral of a family of three in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Friday.

Lawmakers in Canada's House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion on Wednesday recognizing that Russia is committing acts of genocide against the Ukrainian people.

The declaration is non-binding, and doesn't require the Canadian government to take any action. But Heather McPherson, the member of parliament who proposed it, says she hopes the motion will push the government to do more to hold Russia accountable.

Those steps could include implementing sanctions against oligarchs more quickly and directing more federal funding to the International Criminal Court for its investigations into possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine, as McPherson told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

"From my perspective as a parliamentarian in the House of Commons, this is a tool to urge our government to do more," she said. "This is a tool to say that the conflict in Ukraine is not over, that the support we've been providing has not been enough and we need to do more for the people of Ukraine."

McPherson — who serves as the New Democratic Party's leader on foreign affairs in the House — shared the text of the motion on social media.

It says that "there is clear and ample evidence of systematic and massive war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed against the people of Ukraine by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, directed by President Vladimir Putin and others within the Russian Parliament."

The motion goes on to list alleged Russian war crimes, including willful killing of Ukrainian civilians and the desecration of corpses, forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to Russian territory and widespread instances of physical harm, mental harm and rape.

CPAC, Canada's version of CSPAN, tweeted a video of McPherson reading the motion out loud. The chambers were silent when the deputy speaker asked whether anyone was opposed, and filled with applause after he said it had passed.

The world has seen evidence of alleged Russian atrocities committed in Ukraine — including photographs of civilian bodies lying in the streets in Bucha after the withdrawal of Russian troops — though Russia has denied comitting war crimes.

President Biden described Russia's actions as "genocide" earlier this month (as did Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau).

Still, terms like "genocide" and "war crimes" carry specific legal definitions that must be proven before an international criminal court. As one expert toldMorning Edition, proving genocide in Ukraine may be hard, but not impossible.

This story originally appeared inthe Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.