Canada’s defence minister Anita Anand says that there’s a “strong argument” to be made that the “atrocities” in Ukraine occurring at the hands of the Russians amount to genocide.
“Reports relating to the potential use of chemical weapons have been very disconcerting, and this is an issue that NATO is still considering. And of course, we need to be very cognizant that the atrocities in Ukraine are already of a very serious nature,” Anand said in an interview on CTV’s Question period.
“I believe that if you take the definition of genocide, which includes the intent to wipe out a nation in part or in whole, there is a strong argument to be made, even without the use of chemical weapons, that a genocide is occurring,” Anand continued.
The defence minister made this comment after being asked what NATO’s response would be if it is confirmed that Russia used chemical weapons in Ukraine.
Ukraine has said it is looking into whether Russia may have used chemical weapons while attacking the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, but those claims have not been verified and have been denied by Russia.
Over the course of what’s now been a 50 day siege in Ukraine, Russian forces have been accused by Ukraine of committing war crimes, targeting civilians, including children, and destroying entire cities.
International law defines genocide as the deliberate killing or causing other serious harms “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
The defence minister’s comments come on the heels of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telling reporters earlier this week that it’s “absolutely right” that the term genocide is being used in the context of what’s transpiring in Ukraine.
“There are official processes around determinations of genocide,” Trudeau said. “But I think it’s absolutely right that more and more people be talking and using the word ‘genocide’ in terms of what Russia is doing.”
Prior to Trudeau’s remarks, U.S. President Joe Biden said Russia’s actions in Ukraine amounted to genocide in his view. As The Associated Press has reported, Biden has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to “wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.”
While neither the Canadian nor American officials’ comments have been met with direct action or consequence, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has given praise for “calling things by their names.”