September 26, 2017

LIB

Iqra Khalid

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the hon. member has really showcased his passion and advocacy on this issue.

Could the member describe what steps the Government of Canada has taken thus far in assisting the more than 400,000 refugees who have fled Rakhine State and are on the Bangladeshi border? What has Canada done to assist them?

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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LIB

Ali Ehsassi

Liberal

Mr. Ali Ehsassi

Madam Speaker, as the member is fully aware, given her passion for this issue, we have consistently conveyed to the Government of Myanmar that it needs to look at the root causes of communal violence in that country. In addition to that, as the number of refugees fleeing Myanmar increased over the course of the past several weeks, we immediately decided that it was high time to provide more assistance to humanitarian agencies and to Bangladesh, which is hosting a large number of the Rohingya. Lastly, we think it is not only Canada that should act. We are also trying to prevail on other members of the international community to ensure that they also do their part to make sure we are responsive to this crisis.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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GP

Elizabeth May

Green Party

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP)

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise tonight to join what has been primarily, and I think most appropriately, a non-partisan discussion with vast areas of agreement. In that context, I want to start by thanking the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan for making it possible for us to have an emergency debate tonight, and the Speaker for accepting the request for an emergency debate.

There have been so many very fine speeches this evening, and I hesitate to mention some of them for missing others, but the members for Kitchener South—Hespeler and Don Valley West, the Minister of International Development herself, the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the member for Mississauga—Erin Mills, and a number of other parliamentary secretaries, including the parliamentary secretary for Global Affairs, have contributed to our knowledge, to our deep sense of outrage, and to the awareness of the possibilities that exist for Canada to do more, accepting, as I do, that our government has responded, as the Minister of International Development has outlined. However, I do believe that we need to do more.

In digging through the background of this issue, it was a bit of a shock to realize how clearly this attempt at ethnic cleansing/genocide—and I think genocide is an appropriate term—has been in the works for some time. I came across the extremely prescient view of professor Penny Green, a professor at the International State Crime Initiative of Queen Mary University of London. She set out five stages of genocide as it relates to the Rohingya in Myanmar. One is stigmatization, meaning their being denied citizenship and not being acknowledged as one of Myanmar's official ethnic groups, but being labelled Bengalis. This has been referenced before, but I found it extremely prescient. Two is harassment, including job discrimination, religious persecution, and attacks by the state security forces. Three is isolation, including being herded into camps in 2012 and villages being cut-off. Fourth is systematic weakening, with identity cards being removed so that they cannot vote, and their being barred from travelling, leading to loss of livelihood. Fifth is mass annihilation. Professor Green writes that it has not yet occurred, albeit no one has been prosecuted yet for the killing spree against Rohingyas in 2012.

In 2012, there was a mass killing and evidence exists that it was orchestrated. It was made to appear as though random mobs had killed 200 Muslims in Sittwe. However, the reality of the reports from witnesses is that the perpetrators were brought in by trucks and assisted by the military to begin what became a campaign of fear. This ethnic cleansing of 2012 was a stage in what is described as a process of genocide. As this escalated without response, without consequences for those who murdered innocent people, it set the stage for what we have seen since August 25, a mass annihilation and process that has shocked the world. The refugee crisis, with more than 400,000 displaced people fleeing to Bangladesh in barely a month, is one that has exceeded even the recent experiences of exoduses from Rwanda or even Syria.

The United Nations International Organization for Migration has proclaimed this refugee movement as “unprecedented in terms of volume and speed”. Many speeches tonight have already cited the various conclusions that the words “ethnic cleansing” apply or certainly potentially. I believe that it is an attempted genocide, especially when we examine the systematic efforts that led to the effort to try to remove Muslims from Myanmar.

This is shocking at many levels, particularly because of the role of one of my heroes, Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, whom we looked at as an icon of democracy during her house arrest in Myanmar for all those years.

I was very moved and appreciated the decision of the previous government to grant her honorary Canadian citizenship. No one would have doubted that the Nobel Prize committee was correct in giving her a Nobel Prize. Now, as we heard most recently in the speech from the hon. member for Mississauga—Erin Mills, constituents in her riding are saying that her Nobel Prize and Canadian citizenship should be taken away.

It certainly is astonishing for anyone who appreciates the religion of Buddhism, one that is committed to non-violence. Look at any number of Buddhist communities, which have exemplified non-violence in such an extent as they do in Tibet, or places where we know that within Buddhist communities rare tigers are safe because of a practice, belief, and faith in non-violence. This adds to the level of shock and disbelief.

As many Canadians must now be wondering, the sense that democracy was arriving and Myanmar was emerging, that we could support that government, and claims that someone like Aung San Suu Kyi would be equally guilty of promoting ethnic cleansing were just hard to digest.

How do we find a solution? It is clear that Aung San Suu Kyi has been willing to promote ethnic cleansing in that country. Some ideas come to mind. Some have been mentioned before. I will go through three ideas in closing.

One that has been mentioned is the importance of looking at the advice from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, an organization that holds a Nobel Peace prize, one that will never be questioned. That campaign for the Ottawa campaign to have an international treaty on land mines has saved lives already, and it can do more.

It is true, as an hon. member on the Conservative side mentioned earlier tonight, that Myanmar is not a party to the international treaty to ban land mines. However, Bangladesh is. In April 2017, it achieved an agreement with the border military of Myanmar to allow the clearing of land mines. Since the beginning of this campaign of terror, a number of organizations, including information collected by the research arm of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the land mine monitor, had direct eyewitness accounts of the Myanmar military arriving and unloading trucks full of land mines, placing anti-personnel devices on the very paths the Rohingya Muslims would use to flee to Bangladesh. Those were eyewitness accounts of August 28. Amnesty International has also interviewed many witnesses who have seen the military adding new land mines.

If Canada could offer help to Bangladesh, such as military assistance and our expertise in removing land mines and financial support to remove land mines, it would be one thing we could do on top of everything else we have done.

Second, many members here have already said that we need to do everything possible to clear the way for NGOs, civil society organizations, to get in on the ground and provide assistance, food, and medicine on the Bangladeshi side of the border, a very poor country that now has over 400,000 desperate refugees. We can certainly do more to provide assistance there, but we can also demand of the government of Myanmar that NGOs and relief agencies be allowed in to Myanmar to provide relief.

If I missed anyone saying this earlier today I apologize. The last is that it strikes me as possible that we could use Aug San Suu Kyi's global reputation and status as an honorary Canadian citizen and pressure her far more directly to rescue her completely burnished halo, to stand up for human rights, to stand up for the rights of Muslims within Myanmar, and find any way we can through diplomacy in this horrific situation. If such a threat of hope exists, it is worth trying.

In any case, I thank my colleagues for an extremely important emergency debate. I thank the government for what it has done so far, and I beg it to do more.

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 have a couple of questions for her in relation to an emergency debate.

I think we have been united in our concern for the tragedy taking place in Myanmar. We are debating that. We are educating Canadians who are following this debate. Does the member not agree that if we feel as parliamentarians that the government could do more, that is what a debate is? This is not just to all agree and point out the issues. This is to ask if we can do more.

I think there is goodwill on all sides. In that vein, I would like to ask the member, who often seems reticent to criticize the government, a question. We agree that aid has been good. There have been some very good, passionate pleas from Liberal members here tonight. However, does the member not find it unusual that last week when the Prime Minister spoke at the United Nations General Assembly, he did not mention the plight of the Rohingya?

To me, that is somewhere we could go further to advance this debate when our Prime Minister has the world stage. Could we not also propose, as the member for Windsor—Tecumseh did, a Liberal commitment to a UN mission of some sort? Could we push toward international consensus to perhaps allow a mission like that to let civil society and NGO organizations into the country, which she is advocating?

In an emergency debate like this, is it fair to suggest there are ways we could do more as a Parliament?

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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GP

Elizabeth May

Green Party

Ms. Elizabeth May

Madam Speaker, if the hon. member for Durham is unfamiliar with my various criticisms of the Liberal government, I could refresh his memory. I have been very critical of the government's failure to step up, to negotiate, and to participate in the treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons.

I am dismayed that the current legislation, Bill C-47, on which the hon. member for Durham has taken the bizarre tack that it might be a long-gun registry in disguise, in fact needs to close the loophole for the shipment of weapons to the United States and then to other countries without record.

I have many criticisms of the current government. It does not compel me in any way to join in to a piling on in criticizing a speech that has already been given. I do agree with the member for Windsor—Tecumseh that a UN mission is appropriate, and that Canada should use every lever we have through international organizations to do more to pressure the government of Myanmar, to do more to protect the rights of refugees, and to do more to prevent the ongoing genocide.

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 hope that my colleague opposite will allow me to ask a question in French even though it is late because we have not had a lot of discussion in French this evening.

I appreciate her support for Canada's leadership on the world stage and her suggestions for how we might play an even bigger role. I am also glad to hear what the Conservatives think of the platform at the United Nations and to know that it is important to them. We do not always hear Conservatives talk about the United Nations as a place where Canada can play a leadership role internationally.

Can my colleague suggest any ways in which the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and our delegation to the United States can keep the dialogue going around finding solutions to the crisis in Myanmar?

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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GP

Elizabeth May

Green Party

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP)

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague. He is right, the debate this evening happened almost exclusively in English, unfortunately. I appreciate his effort, which I now make myself. It is clear that the United Nations is truly important for peace in the world. It is also clear that it is time to move forward with UN reform. However, without the United Nations, the world would be even more dangerous.

Canada can do more within the United Nations. As a society we can play a bigger role in the world, as peacekeepers for example. We must do more to keep playing this traditional role for Canada and to speak to the matter. However, the government does not yet seem to be willing to move forward. I do hope that the Liberals will find the words to promote peace in the world.

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 want to ask my colleague a question I asked an NDP member earlier and get her thoughts. It is the question of the ability of the international community in general to respond to the issue of genocide. She spoke about the very clear early-warning signs, signs of things already happening much before this point, yet we see with human rights crises around the world—the situation in Syria and the situation in Burma are two contemporary examples—that it seems that the United Nations has not had the capacity to respond effectively.

I would be curious to hear her thoughts on, first, what kinds of reforms to the United Nations should be proposed to make that body effective in responding to these issues, and second, how we can change the architecture of the response to these kinds of events so that we can say, “Never again,” and actually mean never again and actually action it, not just as a slogan but as a concrete reality.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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GP

Elizabeth May

Green Party

Ms. Elizabeth May

Madam Speaker, I am going to have to try to keep a very long explanation very short.

The hope for ending genocide within a country, to stop a government from ethnic cleansing, from killing an entire population within its borders, is in the emerging principle of responsibility to protect at a global level. Unfortunately, Canada, I think inadvertently, but clumsily, assisted in damaging that concept, maybe irrevocably, with allies in the mission in Libya, where the UN Security Council, which means Russia and China, agreed that western forces would go into Libya to protect the Libyan people from Moammar Gadhafi. When we shifted from responsibility to protect to regime change, we damaged the principle so strongly that we were unable to help the people in Syria when they needed our help the most in 2011. We allowed Libya to become a failed state. We allowed Moammar Gadhafi to be killed in the street, and we damaged the process and the hope of an international principle of responsibility to protect.

It is in rebuilding it that the world community, including Security Council members, will ever again authorize a military mission within a sovereign country to protect its own people.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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LIB

Larry Bagnell

Liberal

Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I congratulate all members who have spoken tonight outlining the terrible situation for massive numbers of Rohingya.

Burma had these types of murders, rapes, and extrajudicial killings for years on a bunch of ethnic groups, including the terrorist actions at the beginning of this phase. I hope all members agree that we want to try to eliminate all the improprieties happening in that state. It has been at war for a couple of decades with various ethnic groups, and hopefully the various suggestions made will help eliminate all of that.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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GP

Elizabeth May

Green Party

Ms. Elizabeth May

Madam Speaker, to the member for Yukon, amen. That is exactly what is needed. In responding to the Rohingya crisis, we have to remember all the other ethnic groups that have suffered and remember that if we can find a solution, such as the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan asked me to suggest, we can actually find the solutions internationally to protect marginalized and vulnerable groups everywhere.

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
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NDP

Carol Hughes

New Democratic Party

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes)

Resuming debate. There being no further members rising for debate, I declare the motion carried.

Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 11:51 p.m.)

Topic:   Emergency Debate
Subtopic:   Situation in Myanmar
Permalink

September 26, 2017