A group of Canadian aid workers is urging the federal government to act quickly on some of the recommendations made in a report on the Rohingya crisis by Bob Rae, Canada’s special envoy to Myanmar.
At a news conference in Toronto on Friday, the group Canadians in Support of Refugees in Dire Need (CSRDN) said the wait has been unacceptable.
“We must lead the international community. The inaction is unbelievable,” said CSRDN co-chair Dr. Aliya Khan, noting that it’s been six weeks since the government released a report from Mr. Rae outlining the crisis, yet no actions have come from it.
Mr. Rae, the former premier of Ontario and Liberal MP, presented his recommendations in April. A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said that “we are examining these recommendations and will have more to announce very soon.”
The latest attacks carried out by the Myanmar military in August last year resulted in numerous deaths, along with the rapes of many women and young girls. As a result, an additional 700,000 Rohingya people sought refuge in Bangladesh camps. On May 25 it will be nine months since these attacks, meaning that the impregnated women and girls are now giving birth in extremely unsanitary conditions. A report released by the United Nations says that almost 60 babies a day are being born, many of whom are at risk of abandonment, infection and death.
Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said i n an e-mailed statement: “I agree with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who has described the campaign against the Rohingya as a ‘textbook case of ethnic cleansing’ and who has stated that he ‘has strong suspicions that acts of genocide may have taken place in Rakhine State since August.’”
John Packer, a University of Ottawa professor and director of the university’s Human Rights Research and Education Centre, said Ms. Freeland should go further and invoke the UN Genocide Convention.
“Ethnic cleansing is not a crime in international law,” Mr. Packer said, adding that if Canada were to call it outright genocide this may have consequences for international affairs.
“We know what has happened, we have the evidence,” said Mr. Packer, who was one of the speakers at Friday’s conference.
According to a statement from Global Affairs, Canada has provided $45.9-million for aid partners to deliver life-saving and gender-responsive support for refugees, displaced people and the communities who are hosting them since the beginning of 2017. This includes $12.5-million for the Myanmar Crisis Relief Fund that matched the generous contributions Canadians made last year.