Canada joins its anglophone allies in a diplomatic boycott of Beijing 2022

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicized the decision on Thursday, while maintaining that Canadian athletes would still be in attendance at the Games.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 23, 2021. Athletes from Canada during the athletes' parade at the opening ceremony REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 23, 2021. Athletes from Canada during the athletes' parade at the opening ceremony REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

Canada has become the next anglophone country to announce a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement following similar actions by the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.

Trudeau stated, “as a country, indeed, as many partners around the world, we are extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government. That is why we are announcing today that we will not be sending any diplomatic representation to the Beijing Olympic or Paralympic Games this winter.”

He also stated athletes attending the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing would continue to have the full support of the Canadian government, adding, “our athletes have been training for years and are looking forward to compete at the highest level against athletes from around the world, and they will continue to have all of our fullest support as they show the extraordinary success that Canada has at Winter Olympic Games.”

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) issued a joint statement on the government’s decision to initiate a diplomatic boycott.

The statement read, “we understand and respect the government’s decision to not send diplomatic missions to the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. We also recognize how this announcement draws the important distinction between the participation of athletes and the participation of government officials at the Games.”

Ice Hockey – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Women Preliminary Round Match - Canada v Finland - Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea – February 13, 2018 - Melodie Daoust of Canada celebrates scoring a goal with team mate Laura Fortino. REUTERS/David W Cerny
Ice Hockey – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Women Preliminary Round Match - Canada v Finland - Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea – February 13, 2018 - Melodie Daoust of Canada celebrates scoring a goal with team mate Laura Fortino. REUTERS/David W Cerny

“The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee remain concerned about the issues in China but understand the Games will create an important platform to draw attention to them. History has shown that athlete boycotts only hurt athletes without creating meaningful change.”

“We also know the importance of Team Canada to Canadians, and we are committed to ensuring they can participate safely at the Games. Our athletes have a unique ability to inspire millions of Canadians of all ages, and billions around the world, while the Games foster increasingly important people-to-people connections.

“We thank Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Sport Adam van Koeverden, and the Canadian Government for their ongoing support of Team Canada and know that they, along with Canadians from coast to coast to coast, will be cheering for Team Canada this winter.”

The diplomatic boycott, and subsequent statements of support for athletes competing at the Olympics, largely follows the formula that has emerged from anglophone governments throughout the week.

Speaking with Politico earlier this week, Canadian IOC member, Dick Pound, summed up the diplomatic boycotts, saying, “kind of by default, everyone’s backing into a position that the athletes will go, the games will go on and the relationships with China will take their course.”

International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound, poses in his offices in Montreal, Quebec, Canada February 26, 2020.  REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound, poses in his offices in Montreal, Quebec, Canada February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Regarding the impact of the diplomatic boycotts, Pound commented, “that’s a way that governments can signal their disapproval of whatever the particular Chinese policies may be — whether it makes any difference to the Chinese is anybody’s guess. I would say, basically, no.”

He also questioned the nature of the boycotts, stating, “only governments invite government people to go to the games. My guess is if China thought Canada was likely to have a boycott, it wouldn’t invite anyone from Canada. And same with the U.S. — so it doesn’t become a boycott.”

Whether or not the technicalities of international affairs allow the actions taken by governments this week to be deemed as boycotts or not, is perhaps a point perhaps best left to the diction detectives. What is clear, however, is that officials from the governments of Australia, Canada, Lithuania, United Kingdom, and the United States will be absent when the 2022 Winter Olympic Games open in China early next year.

The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to begin on February 4 and last until February 20, 2022.

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