A national coalition today wrote to Foreign Minister Marc Garneau pleading for Canada to act urgently for the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities now under direct threat from the military following the coup d'état in Myanmar, and to renew the Canadian funding for the Rohingya set to expire this March.
The coalition includes nine members of the Senate (Marilou McPhedran, Ratna Omidvar, Mobina Jaffer, Wanda Thomas Bernard, Nancy Hartling, Mohamed - Iqbal Ravalia, Tony Loffreda, Kim Pate, Salma Ataullahjan).
The coalition also includes the caucus of the Quebec Liberal Party (spokesperson: Nicole Ménard), 11 City Councillors (including members of the Councils of Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Edmonton), 6 university professors, representatives of human rights and refugee groups, academics and spokespeople for Rohingya organization in Canada, all of whom say that the situation for the Rohingya is grim.
The coalition notes that the Rohingya are now directly under threat of Myanmar's military since the coup d'état that took place this week. There are 600,000 Rohingyas trapped in Myanmar. They are considered "an unfinished business" according to Senior General Min Aung Hlain, the man who now presides over the country, and who is known to have orchestrated the genocidal operations in Rakhine state in 2017.
The coalition also notes that Canada granted $300 million in urgent financial aid in 2018. That aid expires in the spring of 2021 and there has been no Government announcement that it will be renewed.
This uncertainty for the Rohingya comes on the heels of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees anticipating a critical budget shortfall that will impact basic services in the refugee camps, a situation made even more worrisome by the recent military coup in Myanmar that precludes any possibility of the voluntary return to their homeland, in safety and dignity, of the Rohingya now in Bangladesh.
“We urge the Government of Canada to take a strong stance along with the US and EU in response to the coup d'état in Myanmar that took place last week, leaving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya and other ethnic minorities at the mercy of a vicious genocidal military” said Raiss Tin Maung, founder of the Rohingya Human Rights Network. "The coup has made it even more vital for the international community to provide stable and predictable funding and protection for the Rohingya. Bangladesh, the host country for 1.2 million Rohingya refugees, does not have the financial capacity to make up for the shortfall.”
Senator Marilou McPhedran of Manitoba noted that last September Canada and the Netherlands issued a statement promising participation in Gambia's genocide case against Myanmar at the UN International Court of Justice.
“We support the stated intention to intervene, but we’ve seen no follow-through or action. We urge Canada to intervene under article 62 of the Court’s Statute. I believe many Senators are open to another joint resolution with the House of Commons to see Canada become a full party if that would help spur Canada to take action on this case” said Senator McPhedran.
Speaking for the City Councillors, Kristyn Wong Tam of Toronto, Lionel Perez and Marvin Rotrand of Montreal, Shawn Menard and Catherine McKenney of Ottawa and Scott McKeen of Edmonton urged the Government to admit Rohingya refugees to Canada.
“We ask Canada to craft a program similar to the one that saw the admission of 49,000 Syrian refugees into Canada in 2015 and 2016.” said Councillor Perez. “That humanitarian gesture has been a great success and offers a model to alleviate the suffering of the Rohingya.”
The Quebec Liberal Party has endorsed the letter and is hoping that Minister Garneau will be able to rapidly respond to the coalition’s main requests.
“We will introduce a motion in the National Assembly in the coming weeks. We recognize the need to restore the democratic process in Myanmar. In the interim Canada has a major role to play in what is one of the world’s most acute refugee crisis” declared Nicole Ménard, porte-parole des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie and spokesperson for the Liberal caucus.
For more information: Jasmine.Griffith-Reid@sen.parl.gc.ca
Febr. 8, 2021