Sparked by an attack on police posts in Rakhine, Myanmar by Rohingya militants, on August 25th, over 600,000 Rohingya muslim refugees, including 240,000 children, have fled to Bangladesh. More than 3,000 Rohingyas have been murdered through extrajudicial killings. Over the course of the last few months more than half of the 400 Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine state have been burned to the ground.
Although the evidence shows clear signs of ethnic cleansing, the Myanmar Government has described the military’s actions as efforts to control militants and rebels. The Government has restricted access for aid groups, journalist, and independent observers, which significantly damages the credibility of the Myanmar Government’s statements.
Ethnic cleansing has no place anywhere in the world. It is our responsibility as Canadians to take a leadership in ending this atrocity and assisting the Rohingya people in rebuilding their communities in an environment free of fear of persecution. Sadly, there have been several instances over the last 40 years in which claims of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people surfaced, resulting in high volumes of refugees claimants.
The roots of the Rohingya community in Myanmar trace back as far as the 12th century. Although many Rohinyga migrated to Myanmar during the British rule, while Myanmar was consider a province of India, the Government has refused to give the Rohingya people citizenship; creating hurdles to citizenship that serve little purpose other than to oppress the Rohingyas. For example, to become a ‘naturalized citizen’, the lowest tier of citizenship, the Rohingyas must produce evidence that their family lived in Myanmar prior their independence in 1948. These documents can be difficult to find and in many case these documents were denied to their ancestors. Lack of citizenship rights has limited access to health, social services, and gainful employment making it almost impossible for the Rohingya people to lift themselves out of poverty.
Because of the extremity of this situation, the international community must take a significant leadership role in finding a long-term solution to this problem. Not only to put a stop to persecution of the Rohingyas, but to create opportunities for them to build strong communities, to pull themselves out of poverty, and to contribute to the society and culture of Myanmar.
I am proud to report that, our Government is working hard to ensuring that Canada plays a meaningful and impactful role in the solution. Canada has committed $25 million in humanitarian assistance funding to aid partners in Myanmar and Bangladesh to help conflict-affected people, including the Rohingya. The funds will help ensure refugees have access to shelter, health services, water, food, and sanitation.
Our Government has prioritized women’s reproductive health and rights as part of our international development efforts through our feminist international assistance policy. Empowering women and girls will help reduce poverty and facilitate the shift to more sustainable developments. Our Government is providing $2.55 million for targeted care for women, new mothers, children under five, and victims of gender-based violence towards this crisis.
Our Prime Minister has appointed the Honourable Bob Rae as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to Myanmar. Mr. Rae is engaging in diplomatic efforts to address this humanitarian and security crisis. Mr. Rae will also advise the Prime Minister on the best strategies Canada can take to support the Rohingya people.
Working with our international partners, I am confident that we can hold the Myanmar military leadership and government to account and help develop a solution which will create opportunity for the Rohingya to live free of fear and raise their communities out of poverty.
Our Government will match every eligible contribution made to the Myanmar Crisis Relief Fund by Canadian individuals to Canadian-registered charities until Tuesday, November 28th, 2017. It is my hope that all Canadians support this worthy cause. Please visit: canada.ca/myanmarcrisis for additional information.
* Action Against Hunger
* Canadian Foodgrains Bank
* Canadian Red Cross Society
* Development and Peace
* Doctors Without Borders
* Emergency Relief and Development Overseas
* Handicap International Canada
* Humanitarian Coalition
* Canadian Lutheran World Relief
* CARE Canada
* Islamic Relief Canada
* Oxfam Canada
* Plan International Canada
* Save the Children Canada
* UNICEF Canada
* UNHCR Canada
* World Relief Canada
* World Renew
* World Vision Canada