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Canada can do more to support the Rohingya

In response to the continuing persecution of the Rohingya in Rakhine State in Myanmar, a group of Canadian parliamentarians – the “All-Party Group for the Prevention of Genocide and other Crimes Against Humanity” — have requested Canada’s Foreign Minister to initiate proceedings against the government of Myanmar in the International Court of Justice.

It is well documented that the Rohingya are among the most persecuted people in the world. Systematic, gross violations of their human rights have led to the mass exodus of over 700,000 people from their homes and communities in Rakhine state.

In response, the government of Canada has appointed a Special Envoy and contributed humanitarian assistance to the over 700,000 displaced persons in neighbouring Bangladesh. On May 22 Kamal Khera, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, announced close to $100 million in humanitarian and development initiatives to help the most vulnerable people affected by the Rohingya crisis.

But there is more that the government of Canada can and should do.

In a May 29 letter to Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, the MPs set out reasons why Canada should pursue a case at the ICJ:

  • Canada and Myanmar are both signatories to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and have also accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.
  • A unanimous parliamentary motion, plus a number of authoritative sources, including the UN Human Rights Council’s Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar, have pointed to the need for a competent court to determine the liability of the political leadership of Myanmar for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State.
  • Article IX of the Genocide Convention obliges (“shall”) parties to submit “disputes relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment of the Convention” to the International Court of Justice.

In addition, Canada supports the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine and recently joined a network of “R2P focal points” that work to promote the norm internationally. The R2P is an international commitment to protect populations from the most heinous international atrocity crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. The R2P doctrine stipulates that:

  • The state has the primary responsibility for the protection of populations from these crimes;
  • The international community has a responsibility to assist states in fulfilling this responsibility;
  • The international community should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from these crimes. If a state fails to protect its populations or is the perpetrator of crimes, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures, including the collective use of force through the UN Security Council.

Canada should be doing all it can to address the situation of the Rohingya.

What you can do

Send a letter to Canada’s Foreign Minister supporting the initiative taken by the MPs from the all-party Genocide Prevention Group. Here is a suggested text.

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