Canada's Parliament formally called on Japan on Wednesday to apologize for forcing more than 200,000 women to work as sex slaves for its soldiers both before and during World War II.
Junior government minister Jason Kenney referred to "an unthinkable evil that happened some 60 years ago", words which prompted loud applause in Parliament.
"We need to learn from the lessons of history ... (and) redouble our efforts in fighting similar kinds of violence against women, against children," he said in a clear reference to mass killings in Sudan's Darfur region.
Legislators unanimously backed a nonbinding motion urging Tokyo to offer a full, formal apology to the women, and condemning what it said were recent attempts by Japanese officials to play down what had happened.
The US House of Representatives adopted a similar motion on the sex slaves - known euphemistically in Japan as "comfort women" - in late July.
In 1993, Japan acknowledged a state role in the wartime program and apologized to the victims, who were mostly Korean and Chinese women.
Earlier this year, then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe caused an uproar when he denied there was proof Japan's government or military had been involved procuring the women.
But Abe later apologized to the victims and reiterated that Tokyo stood by the 1993 apology, known as the "Kono Statement".
"The Japanese government's position on comfort women is as stated in the Kono Statement," a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Tokyo after the motion was approved.
"Based on that stance, the Japanese government has been sincerely dealing with this matter."
The Canadian motion was introduced by Olivia Chow, a legislator for the left-leaning New Democrats.
"I'm just extremely pleased that, today, the government of Canada formally said to Japan they need to sincerely apologize to the comfort women and (for) the atrocities," she said after the vote.
"Without a public apology we cannot even start dealing with reconciliation," Chow said.
The original motion said Japan should teach current and future generations about the army's "war crimes". Chow said she had toned down the language to reflect good ties between the two countries.
Speaking before the vote, she was brutally blunt about what Japanese troops had done.
"A 15-year-old was kidnapped, her shoulder was broken, the first day, she was raped by 11 Japanese men, she was a virgin at that time, she was bleeding nonstop," she said.
Tokyo set up a fund in 1995 to provide compensation to former sex slaves. But many have refused to accept the money, saying the Japanese government itself should provide the compensation in recognition of its responsibility.
An official at Japan's embassy in Ottawa said Canada should trust Tokyo's handling of the matter.
"It certainly won't help our bilateral issues. It is not comfortable for our government to have a third country like Canada intervene," he told Reuters before the vote.
Source: China Daily/Agencies