September 26, 2017

LIB

Marwan Tabbara

Liberal

Mr. Marwan Tabbara

Madam Speaker, as mentioned in my speech, I sit on the Subcommittee for International Human Rights. I applaud my colleague for bringing this study forward in the last session.

Our response to the Myanmar Muslims who are in Rakhine State and now fleeing to Bangladesh is that our Prime Minister has denounced this and has done so in an open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs has denounced this as well. We have committed millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to those in Bangladesh and in Rakhine State. Our response has been rapid. We had a prior response within our subcommittee.

We will continue to advocate for the Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh. We will be supporting them.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
Permalink
LIB

Julie Dabrusin

Liberal

Ms. Julie Dabrusin (Toronto—Danforth, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I have received many letters from constituents. They are very concerned about the situation in Myanmar and what we are doing to help the Rohingya people. I want to put for my friend some of the recommendations that have been put forth in correspondence, and perhaps he could tell us what his thoughts are.

For example, one letter suggested matching funds collected by Canadian charities for relief and aid efforts for the Rohingya; accelerating the processing of Rohingya refugees; providing technical assistance and increased aid for relief organizations that were serving the needs of the Rohingya, who have been forced to flee to Bangladesh; and calling on the Myanmar government to affirm the right of the Rohingya to return to their homes and to live in peace and security. There are also a few requests to go to the UN for further investigation and assistance.

Perhaps my colleague could comment as to what he believes we should do with these recommendations and how we could use these as a path forward.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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LIB

Marwan Tabbara

Liberal

Mr. Marwan Tabbara

Madam Speaker, the first is to work with multilateral nations as well as the United Nations and like-minded nations to look at instilling peace and security there and to ensure atrocities do not happen anymore.

Second, it is absolutely imperative that we ensure that humanitarian aid gets to the most vulnerable, whether in Bangladesh or in Rakhine State. As I mentioned, vulnerable people will die if humanitarian aid does not reach them. We have pledged $9 million in humanitarian assistance. That is part of our initiative as well. We will continue to support the humanitarian response.

We strongly urge that the Rohingya receive the rights that many citizens in Myanmar receive and that they are treated equally in that regard.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle

New Democratic Party

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I rise with great sadness tonight to reiterate the urgent situation that must compel the Government of Canada to demand unrestricted access for humanitarian agencies and for those doing the investigation work and to provide the humanitarian funding necessary for this crisis.

This is a discussion that has already gone on far too long without action over the years. As vice-chair of the subcommittee on international human rights, I can tell members that it was only last year that we completed a lengthy study of the situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar, and here we are yet again, the situation having grown even worse since our first report.

The world had great hopes for Myanmar when, in November 2015, historic elections ushered in a new civilian government. The National League for Democracy, or NLD, led by Nobel Peace Price laureate, democracy activist, and honorary Canadian Aung San Suu Kyi, assumed power through a peaceful, democratic transition in March 2016.

For over 50 years, Myanmar had been governed by repressive military rule, characterized by grave human rights violations, an absence of the rule of law, and low levels of human and economic development. The country's new government is now faced with the legacy of long-standing repression of Myanmar's ethnic minorities by successive military regimes whose attempt to shape Myanmar as an ethnically Burman nation in which the official religion is Buddhism has led to persistent internal armed conflict.

The Rohingya are concentrated in Rakhine State, also known as Arakan State. Rakhine State is located on the west coast of Myanmar and is very ethnically diverse. The majority of the population, about 60%, are ethnic Rakhine, who are Buddhists and recognized by the government as an ethnic minority indigenous to Myanmar. Muslim communities, including the Rohingya, make up 30% of the population. In the northern part of Rakhine State, which shares the border with Bangladesh, Rohingya comprise 90% of the population. The state is one of the poorest in Myanmar, where decades of economic neglect by successive regimes have resulted in poverty and underdevelopment all across communities.

The Rohingya are referred to as Bengalis by Myanmar's government and most of its public. This contributes to the false narrative that they are a community of “illegal immigrants”, when in fact the Rohingya have been established in Myanmar for generations. Myanmar's citizenship law, enacted in 1982, provided a list of 135 ethnic minorities recognized by the government. It excluded the Rohingya, resulting in the withdrawal of their citizenship. This judgment was based on the false claim that their ancestors were not present in Myanmar at the start of the British occupation of Rakhine State in 1823.

Further, the word “Rohingya” has become politicized in light of concerns that referring to the minority by their proper name could lead to their being identified as a recognized ethnic group with the full set of citizenship rights that follow. Rakhine Buddhists, themselves an ethnic minority in Myanmar, view the Rohingya Muslims as an existential threat to their current ethnic majority in Rakhine State, their desire for more political autonomy, their reassertion of their ethnic identity, and their economic well-being.

Over the decades, successive military regimes have used a divide-and-conquer ruling approach against or in Rakhine State, pitting Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims against each other for political gain, exacerbating tensions and causing numerous flare-ups between the two communities.

While Rakhine hostility against the Rohingya has grown since Myanmar's independence from the United Kingdom in 1948, successive military regimes have also gradually imposed policies of persecution and exclusion against the Rohingya. Even before their loss of citizenship in 1982, the Rohingya experienced the severest forms of legal, economic, educational, and social discrimination, including restrictions on their freedom of movement, which further affected their ability to earn a livelihood, pursue an education, or receive medical care. Their right to assemble to practise their religion was also curtailed.

According to testimony by Rebecca Wolsak of Inter Pares, the country's dictators have a vision “to build one nation, with one race and one religion”, one race being Burman and one religion being Buddhism. However, she also states that “Approximately 40% of the population are not Burman. They identity as ethnic nationalities.”

In a country with over 135 ethnic groups, implementing this vision led to widespread human rights abuses by successive military regimes, including the violent suppression of ethnic, political, cultural, social, and religious rights, and the economic neglect of ethnic dominated regions. A number of ethnic minorities formed their own guerilla armies to counter government oppression and violence, resulting in numerous protracted armed conflicts across the country. In all of these conflict areas, Myanmar's military has been responsible for human rights abuses against civilians, including forced labour, extra-judicial killings, the recruitment of child soldiers, the use of anti-personnel land mines, and sexual violence against women and girls.

This brings us to where we are tonight with the current crisis. I believe strongly that forums such as this emergency debate should be used for more than a recitation of the atrocities. New Democrats believe that it is our job to bring forward workable propositions, concrete ideas that might serve to improve conditions on the ground. Just last week, we heard powerful testimony at the Subcommittee on International Human Rights from Mr. Anwar Arkani, the president of the Rohingya Association of Canada, and Ahmed Ramadan, the coordinator of Burma Task Force Canada.

According to their very powerful, graphic, and disturbing testimony, some of which was recited here tonight, there is and has been for some time a very serious problem with humanitarian aid. In Myanmar, more than 120,000 Rohingya are presently confined to internment camps by the government. This is similar to the situation that occurred during the pogroms against the Rohingya in 2012.

Accessing humanitarian aid in those camps has been very difficult for several years. Right now, food is not getting into these camps. In northern Rakhine State where the recent violence has been taking place, the government has effectively ousted all of the major humanitarian groups that were on the ground providing life-saving aid. The World Food Programme is not permitted to deliver food to northern Rakhine State. There are tens of thousands of children who are suffering from severe, acute malnutrition. Without humanitarian intervention, they will die. This is an area that the government of Myanmar has completely sealed off to all humanitarian group, with one exception, the International Committee of the Red Cross. Here the government seems content with allowing local Burmese civilians to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from delivering aid.

In Bangladesh the needs are massive. There is an enormous influx of people, upward of half a million people since August 25, and the needs are dramatic. Food and health care are in great need. After fleeing horrific violence and travelling on foot, dodging areas strewn with anti-personnel land mines, with little food for up to two weeks, refugees are arriving exhausted, hungry, dehydrated, and in most cases traumatized by their experiences.

Major concerns exist for the children's survival and well-being, with emergency food, nutrition, and health interventions as well as psycho-social support all critical and time sensitive to prevent further harm. In addition to urgent food and shelter needs, of particular concern is the potential outbreak of contagious diseases, given the low health status of the population, severely crowded conditions in the settlements, and poor water and sanitation. We might as well say no sanitation.

With new arrivals crossing the border daily, aid agencies, local communities, and the Bangladeshi government do not currently have the resources to meet the spiralling scale or scope of the need, which brings me to what we, the New Democrats, hope to see from our own government.

When crimes against humanity are taking place, Canada has a moral and international legal obligation to ensure these crimes come to an end, and that all those responsible are brought to justice. Canada must call on the UN Security Council to take measures, including targeted sanctions and referral to the International Criminal Court, in order to stop the violence and bring those responsible to justice.

The Government of Canada must demand that the Government of Myanmar guarantee unrestricted and meaningful access to humanitarian agencies that provide the crucial life-saving services in Rohingya communities and in camps for the internally displaced Rohingya.

The Burmese government should likewise immediately stop using anti-personnel land mines and join the 1997 mine ban treaty. Several reports from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and others have documented the use of anti-personnel mines, having been laid between Myanmar's two major land crossings with Bangladesh, resulting in casualties among Rohingya refugees who are fleeing government attacks on their homes. The use of land mines must stop, and all must be removed. Our government must also demand that Myanmar guarantee unfettered access to UN and other independent investigators so that all human rights violations are fully documented. Without this full accounting, justice simply is not possible.

We also believe that Canada should increase humanitarian assistance for conflict-afflicted Rohingya in Bangladesh and Myanmar through trusted humanitarian partners. Given the scale of this crisis, $6.63 million is a start but not nearly enough. The United Nations has called this the most urgent refugee crisis in the world. We also believe that Canada should plan to accept Rohingya refugees in Canada.

We very much would like to see more leadership from Canada on this and other international issues. So far, our government is great with a selfie and a sound bite, but it comes up seriously wanting when actual global leadership is required. Accordingly, Canada must work actively, indeed lead with like-minded states to find a political solution.

I would now like to quote former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock, former ambassador to the UN. Here is what they wrote in a recent column:

And what does that mean for Canada in concrete terms? It means forming a coalition of like-minded states drawn from all the world's regions to demand that Ms. Suu Kyi end the Myanmar military's rampage. It means calling for accountability for those in Myanmar who have committed crimes against humanity. It means mobilizing global public opinion to put pressure on the UN Security Council, where China and Russia are already standing in the way of any sensible discussion, to take measures that will end the violence.

It is good to hear these former statesmen, both Liberals, speak out about this important issue. Now, if only we could see some action from the Liberals who are now in government.

Last, we believe that Canada must call on the Government of Myanmar to repudiate anti-Muslim violence, to end impunity for acts of violence against the Rohingya and other minorities, and to develop a strategy for promoting tolerance between the Rakhine and Rohingya in Rakhine State.

I mentioned Ahmed Ramadan earlier, from Burma Task Force Canada, who spoke last week at the Subcommittee on International Human Rights. Mr. Ramadan requested that Canada work to bring in UN peacekeepers to create a safe zone for the remaining Rohingya, because he believes that nothing short of that will be able to provide the requisite security and safety so that food and medical aid can be brought in. While Canada certainly cannot do something like this on its own, it is something that can be accomplished by the international community working together, and Canada must speak up.

Myanmar is a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR, which is not a treaty, requires member states to confer, in a non-discriminatory manner, some of the most fundamental rights denied to the Rohingya: the right to life, liberty and security of the person; the right to a nationality; the provision of equal protection before the law; protection from discrimination; freedom of movement; freedom of religion, including communal worship; the right to a livelihood; the right to access public services; and the right to health, including providing special care to mothers and children.

It is not a treaty. Many of the rights guaranteed by the UDHR have been recognized in international case law and have gained the status of customary international law. That is to say, it is widely and uniformly applied by states on the understanding that it is legally mandatory. This effectively creates a universally binding obligation on all states, including Myanmar.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned this situation as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. We have the opportunity to seize this opportunity, with the global community, to act now.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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LIB

Iqra Khalid

Liberal

Ms. Iqra Khalid (Mississauga—Erin Mills, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her great advocacy and passion on this specific issue for the past year and a half in our international human rights subcommittee.

The member spoke about justice and accountability. I would like to ask the member what kind of measures the international community can take to hold Aung San Suu Kyi and her government accountable for what is happening in Myanmar and Rakhine State.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle

New Democratic Party

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question. She is an engaging member of our international subcommittee and really escalates the level of discussion. We are very proud to have consensus on that committee, and the hon. member is a key personality in that consensus-building.

We have international, respected agencies that provide the required documentation to the International Criminal Court. As a matter of fact, we heard from my colleague who posed the question. We heard from another member of her caucus who has done war crimes prosecution, so we know how important it is to document evidence.

We also know that a population that is so traumatized, stressed, and low-resourced does not have the capability to provide the documentation that is required. Developed nations are finding ways to contribute through non-governmental organizations that can work through the United Nations and provide this effectively so that justice comes to fruition.

When we have a situation of impunity, moving forward they are only going to have a situation of dysfunction as they try to rebuild civil society in Myanmar. That is an extremely important example of how we can actually do something significant in terms of making people face justice for the atrocities being suffered right now.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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CPC

Erin O'Toole

Conservative

Hon. Erin O'Toole (Durham, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Windsor—Tecumseh for her detailed and thoughtful remarks tonight and the clarion call near the end of her speech for global leadership. I agree with large portions of that part of her speech.

I have a twofold question for her. First, does she think global leadership means, to quote a parliamentary secretary in the debate tonight, a terse letter being written to the head of government in Myanmar, or would it have been a better opportunity for Canada to have publicly raised concerns about the Rohingyas at the UN General Assembly?

Second, the member had some detailed remarks on UN peacekeeping. The government does have an outstanding commitment to deploy 600 peacekeepers, but it has to indicate where that will be. It will be hosting a global or multi-country summit on peacekeeping. Does the member feel that this situation in Myanmar could be an opportunity for Canada to offer to deploy peacekeepers there? Does she think Myanmar might be the solution and that the government should announce this while hosting the summit?

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle

New Democratic Party

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague's remarks and question indicate the way he thinks we should go, which is very important.

We need to be a strong voice. The upcoming summit is an opportunity for us to lend our voice and for the Government of Canada to demand unfettered access for NGOs that need to go in to do the humanitarian aid. Once we arrive at that as a global community, that yes we are going to do that and will provide the peacekeepers for the safe zone, that is part of the voice that we need to contribute to. It is not something we can do on our own, as I said in my speech, but something we can do as a global community, and we have to take the lead. This is such an overwhelming situation that people do not know where to begin.

I suggested that this is where we should begin. We should demand that unfettered access and bring in the resources so that the humanitarian aid can be delivered safely, including to the internment camps, and collect the evidence that we need so there is no impunity moving forward, which is significant. Yes, we have to have a game plan and really step up and say that we are doing it. Should we do it alone? No, but we should indicate, yes, we are willing to put our resources into this for the rest of the United Nations community that is looking at this with concern. If we do this together, it is not just aspirational anymore but tangible, and there are ways that we can do it.

We cannot fool ourselves in thinking that we can go in with great guns and fix this overnight. This is a long-term, ongoing commitment that the government will have to remain strong in regard to. That is the key.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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CPC

Garnett Genuis

Conservative

Mr. Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, CPC)

Madam Speaker, there have been a few back-and-forths on the issue of engagement through the United Nations. I was in New York last week for the UN General Assembly and, yes, I was disappointed that the Prime Minister did not raise the issue of the Rohingyas. However, there was also a lot of discussion in the meetings I was in about the question of UN reform, with people noting that we see these atrocities and there does not seem to be the capacity to respond through the Security Council and other bodies of the UN. Different people had different solutions for that problem, but if we look at what has happened in Syria, what is happening in Burma, and what is happening in other places, it becomes clear that the proof is in the pudding and that we need to look for other ways of responding. Here I think that part of the solution is UN reform.

I would be curious about the member's thoughts on what we can do to promote changes in the United Nations that would increase that body's effectiveness when it comes to responding to emerging cases of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle

New Democratic Party

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle

Madam Speaker, I understand the sentiment for UN reform.

Once we prioritize international human rights, once we prioritize citizens, when we put people before economic decisions, when we ensure that we are not exploiting people, that is the start for a global community.

When we can reform the United Nations, it will be a different mindset. We have to buy into that. The United Nations will only be as strong as member nations allow it to be. If we act with our own personal agendas, different individuals, sovereign personalities around the world, the UN will never be anything more than a figurehead.

We need total buy-in and use the United Nations. That way, it can be powerful and effective. Whatever reforms we aspire to will actually mean something. The important point is that the membership as a whole needs that greater level of commitment to the international community, to international human rights. That is how I see it.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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LIB

Matt DeCourcey

Liberal

Mr. Matt DeCourcey (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I want to take the opportunity to once again state on the record the important role our government, under the leadership of our Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has taken, being forceful on the commitment Canada has to help see a solution to the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State in Myanmar and with the Rohingya population.

The Prime Minister spoke with a number of his counterparts last week about how the international community could intervene to see a solution to this crisis. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs met in bilateral meetings with a number of counterparts on how Canada could contribute in addition to the humanitarian aid we provide and in addition to the ongoing international multilateral leadership our country has provided.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle

New Democratic Party

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle

Madam Speaker, I appreciate that. However, what has been done so far is not enough. I have laid out some very succinct recommendations of the ways we can make very tangible demands. They are very clear cut. We need stronger statements.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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LIB

Iqra Khalid

Liberal

Ms. Iqra Khalid (Mississauga—Erin Mills, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House today to participate in this emergency debate on a very serious issue, a human rights crisis with the whole world watching as it occurs.

A million Rohingya have been devastated as a result of assaults by the Burmese military, and 214 Rohingya villages in Burma have been torched to ashes, as documented through satellite by Amnesty International. Human Rights Watch estimates that 50% of all Rohingya villages have been destroyed. Eighty per cent of the 400,000-plus refugees arriving in Bangladesh in the last month have been women and children, and among the women, a United Nations survey found that 52% had been raped.

In the House we have heard passionate testimony from many members today. I want to outline some things that the Government of Canada has done with respect to the issue.

Representatives of the Canadian Embassy have visited Rakhine State on several occasions, including the Canadian ambassador to Myanmar, who visited five times in order to fully understand the situation on the ground. This has allowed Canadian officials to engage directly with state and local government representatives in order to advocate for better life conditions for the Rohingya.

Many other trips have happened. It is important to point out that the Government of Canada provided humanitarian assistance funding of $5 million in 2016 to experienced humanitarian partners such as the World Food Programme and the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, with whom Minister Dion, our previous foreign affairs minister, met when he visited Myanmar in April 2016 to respond to the immediate needs of the conflict-affected and displaced populations in Myanmar, including the Rohingya. An important part of our humanitarian partners' work is to address these needs.

Canada has also co-sponsored two resolutions at the United Nations General Assembly's third committee, which focuses on social, humanitarian, and cultural issues, and at the UN Human Rights Council. The UNGA resolution called on Myanmar to ensure equal access to full citizenship and related rights, including civil and political rights, for all stateless persons and expressed continued concern over the 1982 citizenship law. The Human Rights Council resolution adopted a stronger tone and urged the government of Myanmar to grant full citizenship rights to Rohingya, including by reviewing the 1982 citizenship law.

A lot has been done and said, and over the past year my Subcommittee on International Human Rights has been very active with this issue. In April 2016, I was honoured to table a motion at the subcommittee to commence a study of the Rohingya in Myanmar. The motion was passed, and detailed study sessions commenced on May 3, 2016. It was great to see the consensus and all the members of the subcommittee participating and engaging with this issue. The Government of Canada tabled a response to the recommendations that were provided by our human rights subcommittee.

On November 24, 2016, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights released a joint statement expressing alarm over the ruthless and disproportionate response by Myanmar security forces to violence in Maungdaw District in Myanmar, which began in October 2016.

Responding to another outbreak of violence in early 2017, our subcommittee held an emergency meeting with experts on this issue. Experts included the Burma Task Force and the Rohingya Association of Canada. Following the meeting, the subcommittee released a second update and joint statement on the situation.

I, along with other MPs, have been providing support to different organizations working on this issue since the start of our tenures as MPs for this term. I was delighted to see that community-led efforts have led to the creation of an organizational coalition that holds meetings frequently on this issue and I am following the coalition's work very closely and updating the government on its progress accordingly.

Alongside the Minister of Foreign Affairs, we met with the State Counsellor of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, in Ottawa in early June 2017. Our Foreign Affairs Minister raised concerns about the human rights situation of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar and they were discussed thoroughly at this meeting.

This past week we held another emergency meeting in our international human rights subcommittee and issued another statement.

A lot of constituents in my riding of Misissauga—Erin Mills have reached out to me, raising concerns, asking what Canada is going to do and how we as Canadians are going to help those who really need the help.

We have seen that the Government of Canada has really taken a leadership role. It is a great honour and privilege to be a Canadian, to be a part of this country that takes ownership and leadership in human rights crises. We cannot be silent, and Canada has not been. I commend our Prime Minister and our leadership on the great efforts they have made.

More than 100 constituents participated in a town hall meeting that I held in my constituency office a couple of weeks ago. These constituents were concerned, and I rise today to facilitate their voice in this Chamber. I rise to advise our government and members in the House what some of their recommendations were as we discussed the situation in Myanmar and the atrocities that the Rohingyas are facing not only in their own states but also at borders as they attempt to flee.

I would like to share some of the recommendations put forward by my constituents. Some asked that the government revoke the honorary Canadian citizenship given to Aung San Suu Kyi and unequivocally condemn the atrocities committed by Myanmar's military and Myanmar nationalist groups against the Rohingya.

Constituents have also asked to stop the aid and help and forthwith shut down trade with the Myanmar government until it refrains from killing innocent people.

Other recommendations included to call on the Burmese government to immediately de-escalate the military crackdown and withdraw its armed forces from the Rohingya areas of Rakhine State; to use all and any real action available to end this massacre immediately; to ask Myanmar to issue visas to the UN fact-finding mission and to allow access into Rakhine State; to ask the Canadian ambassador to Myanmar, Karen MacArthur, to visit the afflicted Rohingya villages, where her presence will show the Myanmar government that the international community is watching and she can witness first-hand the unfolding massacre; to send the Bangladeshi high commissioner to visit the border so he too can see what is happening on the ground; to publicly endorse the Kofi Annan commission recommendations on what steps to take to resolve this situation; to allow Canadian relief organizations to provide humanitarian access to the victims; and to facilitate the immediate resumption of aid to all Rohingya communities and IDP camps.

In collaboration with other members of the UN Human Rights Council, Canada may convene a special session on the Rohingya crisis. The outcome documented by this human rights council session may request the security council to discuss the matter in its special session, as it constitutes a threat to international peace and security as well as the humanitarian crisis.

Canada may call on international human rights organizations to redouble their efforts to highlight the plight of the Rohingya and to build pressure on Myanmar to revoke all discriminatory laws against the Rohingya and to resettle refugees.

There have also been calls for Aung San Suu Kyi's Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked and for Aung San Suu Kyi to be held accountable.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak in the House tonight and to present some of the recommendations that the constituents of Misissauga—Erin Mills have provided. I look forward to questions from my peers.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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CPC

Erin O'Toole

Conservative

Hon. Erin O'Toole (Durham, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Mississauga—Erin Mills for her work on this issue in the human rights subcommittee. She should be commended for being one of the early voices, along with my colleague and deputy critic, in raising the plight of the Rohingya.

My question is based on her comments that we cannot be silent. She mentioned that the Human Rights Council of the United Nations could be tasked with looking at this issue. She suggested that perhaps the security council could as well.

I have two questions.

First, was the member disappointed that in his speech to the General Assembly, the Prime Minister was silent on this specific issue, at a gathering where the very nations of the General Assembly gather to discuss issues of concern?

My second question relates to the Office of Religious Freedom. As I mentioned in my speech, in May 2015, Ambassador Bennett specifically raised the case of the Rohingya. In fact, it was my first real familiarity with how persecuted this minority population had been in Myanmar. That office has since been closed. It has been replaced with something else. Could the member assure the House that the new office is at least tracking and looking at these violations of the basic human rights of the Muslim population in Myanmar?

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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LIB

Iqra Khalid

Liberal

Ms. Iqra Khalid

Madam Speaker, I want to be very clear. Our Prime Minister has not been silent on this issue. Our Prime Minister has been very vocal. In fact, he was one of the first in the international community to speak out against the atrocities and the recent outbreak of violence.

I commend our Prime Minister and our Minister of Foreign Affairs, and all of the government, including the members opposite, on their hard work, their passion, in their advocacy for the rights of the Rohingya.

I also want to clarify for the member that the Rohingya is an ethnicity that is not just based on Muslims. It is made up of many other religions as well.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle

New Democratic Party

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for really laying out for us what has been done so far.

Knowing that we have seen things escalate, and the member has heard other comments, I would like to hear what she thinks should be done next. We need a commitment to increased resources. We need to demand humanitarian aid and the safe traversing of that aid to internment camps. Countless things need to be done, which I am sure she knows and has described these in her speech.

After all the speaking is done, after all the messaging is out to the public and to the leadership community with the other sovereign states, including Myanmar, what are the tangible things that need to be done next?

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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LIB

Iqra Khalid

Liberal

Ms. Iqra Khalid

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her advocacy on this issue.

In our international human rights subcommittee and as time has passed on this issue, we learned that there were two basic components. There are the short-term solutions, which deal directly with providing that humanitarian aid to those who are suffering, providing access to Rakhine State, and getting food, water, and medical supplies to the Rohingya, those who are in desperate need.

The second is a more long-term solution, which is more of a political solution. How can we as Canadians, as the Government of Canada promote democracy and equal rights in a country like Myanmar, which is budding as a democracy itself? Myanmar has a lot to learn from Canada. My understanding is that Canada is happy to help.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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LIB

Ali Ehsassi

Liberal

Mr. Ali Ehsassi (Willowdale, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I am very grateful to join tonight's emergency debate on the Rohingya.

There can be no uncertainty that ethnic cleansing is being perpetrated against the Rohingya peoples in Myanmar. Over the last weeks, the world has witnessed horrifying images of Rohingya villages on fire, children who have lost their parents, and desperate refugees fleeing that country. This crisis has certainly reached a critical level of urgency.

Earlier this week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called the Myanmar crisis “the most urgent refugee emergency in the world”. Even more startling were the remarks by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on September 11, in which he warned member states that the widespread and systematic attacks against the Rohingya possibly amount to crimes against humanity, or that “The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Such assessments behoove every member of the international community to act.

While Myanmar has been marked by significant inter-communal violence since 2012, the escalating cycle of violence in recent weeks should cause great alarm. Since August 25, more than 400,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee after facing mass arson and looting by Myanmar security forces. As they flee such atrocities, anti-personnel land mines are being placed in their path, women are being raped, and children are being killed by soldiers.

Along with a number of my Liberal colleagues, I had the great honour last week to meet several members of the Rohingya community residing in Canada. They spoke with great eloquence about the of their relatives, friends, and loved ones in Myanmar. We will not ignore their heartfelt concerns.

Myanmar faces complex and serious challenges. Myanmar is a young democracy and is still very fragile. It only recently emerged onto the world stage after many decades of isolation. Although rich in natural resources, those riches have certainly not been equally distributed in that country. While many parts of Myanmar had been experiencing relatively rapid economic growth, the Rakhine area, populated by the Rohingya, has fallen further behind. While Rakhine is fertile, the state's poverty rate is 78%, almost double the rate of 37.5% for the entire country. Perhaps even more significant, identity and ethnicity remain sensitive issues in Myanmar as the state's refusal to extend citizenship to all its residents poses a major impediment to peace and prosperity in that country. Members of the House should realize that Myanmar harbours the largest community of stateless people in the world, with the Rohingya representing a very high proportion of them.

No crisis as serious as this has easy answers, but our government must take immediate action. Just today, I met with a member of a Canadian-based NGO called the Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention. He echoed what we have heard from other knowledgeable sources, that we need to embark on a program of targeted economic sanctions against the most egregious human rights abuse perpetrators in Myanmar, while also providing humanitarian assistance to the neighbouring countries receiving thousands of refugees. The government is serious about dealing with this crisis and we must engage all of Myanmar's neighbouring countries to craft a durable and regional solution.

I am proud that Canada is already taking action. Since 2000, Canada has provided over $180 million. In 2017 alone, Canada has directed $9.18 million in assistance to humanitarian partners in Myanmar and Bangladesh to help the most vulnerable, in particular women and children.

It is not enough, however, to solely provide short-term solutions. Our government has joined others to address the root causes of conflict in Myanmar, including visiting the issue of citizenship rights, socio-economic development, health, education, inter-communal dialogue, and the engagement of civil society.

Our government has a record we can rightly be proud of. Our current government acted decisively with respect to the Syrian crisis, welcoming refugees and providing them with support to restart their lives. When Daesh committed atrocities against the Yazidis, we welcomed more than a thousand survivors, including vulnerable Yazidi women and children.

The government also created a famine relief fund to respond to the food crises in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. In response to the political violence in Burundi, Canada recently provided more than $2 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to support neighbouring countries. Just in the last month Canada tabled a draft resolution at the UN Human Rights Council to establish an international commission of inquiry to ensure that the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Yemen are held accountable. Of course, just last week, our Prime Minister and our foreign minister raised the issue of the Rohingya with many of their counterparts at the United Nations.

We now need more concrete steps. Canada cannot do it alone, but we can take a meaningful stand and do our part while we work with our allies and international bodies.

On August 24, 2017, the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, chaired by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, released its final report. Canada strongly supports the recommendations and continues to urge Myanmar to implement all the recommendations.

To find lasting and durable peace, Myanmar must commit to the protection of the human rights of all its people, no matter where they live or what religion they choose to practice.

It is not just Myanmar that needs to act. Far too often the international community has forgotten the lessons of history. In Rwanda, the international community refused to act promptly, and a million people died. In Syria, most of the international community turned away, and atrocities continue to this day.

Let us take action now to ensure that Myanmar does not represent another failure of the international system or another tragedy in history. Canada must step up and do what is just and what is right. Among others, we should lead the way to ensure that member states of the United Nations focus on this crisis. Other actions should be to compel the Myanmar government to grant unfettered access for the provision of humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable. In addition, we must implement targeted economic sanctions against individual members of the Myanmar government responsible for perpetrating the most egregious human rights violations. Finally, we need to deploy a special Canadian envoy to conduct diplomatic engagement with all the parties in Myanmar. Of course, it goes without saying that we should continue to provide humanitarian assistance to all agencies on the ground in the region.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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CPC

Garnett Genuis

Conservative

Mr. Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague, who has been very active in the context of the genocide prevention parliamentary group. These are issues he follows closely.

He mentioned this not becoming a failure of the international system. I would argue, quite frankly, that it is already, to a substantial extent, a failure of the international system. It is not that we cannot act now, but up to this point, it has already been a failure in that so many people have been adversely affected.

Speaking on the broader question of genocide prevention, this is something that has been a long time coming, the removal of citizenship and the denial of the legitimacy of a people to be in their homeland, a place they are indigenous to. There has been this gradual incremental escalation. We should have seen this coming. This is an issue that has been raised in the House for over a year and a half. Specific actions were asked of the government in the spring that were not taken then. Some of those actions have been taken now, in the fall, in light of this stage of the escalation.

How do we act differently in terms of responding faster to these kinds of problems? I especially note that the Canadian ambassador has been to Rakhine, but I have raised in the past in the House that the public comments after those visits have not at all emphasized the urgency of the problem. They have referred to inter-communal violence leading to displacement, but they have not at all pointed the finger where the finger needs to be pointed. How do we get the Canadian government, other governments around the world, and the international institutions to actually notice those warning signs and act earlier, before these situations have already reached what is effectively a crisis point? It is very difficult to act fast enough if we only start at that crisis point.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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LIB

Ali Ehsassi

Liberal

Mr. Ali Ehsassi

Madam Speaker, I will start by thanking my colleague for the incredible work he does on issues pertaining to human rights. I, for one, can say that I have learned much from my colleague, having spoken to him regarding numerous issues that have arisen over the course of the past several years.

As my friend knows full well, the situation in Myanmar is an incredibly complex one. For that reason, as is well understood by members of the House, we have continued to provide humanitarian assistance over the years. As everyone is well aware, since 2000, Canada has been one of the countries and member states of the United Nations that has been quite generous in ensuring that the Government of Myanmar is well aware that we would like to assist. We have also been in close contact with former secretary-general Kofi Annan to provide assistance to him and to prevail on other allies to make sure we all come together to ensure that there is effective action.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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September 26, 2017