Written by Iris Jungmin Seo, Blog Writer
According to UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Rohingya Refugee Crisis Report 2018 (https://www.unocha.org/rohingya-refugee-crisis), it has been estimated that 905,000+ Rohingya Muslim minorities have fled Myanmar and approximately 10,000+ people have been killed as a result of “ethnic cleansing”. Despite the continued atrocities, the alarming situation in Myanmar has been faced with an “awkward silence” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/03/worlds-awkward-silence-over-rohingya-genocide-warnings) from the international community. The level of inaction from the international community fundamentally breaks the intent of UN’s Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; a solemn vow the international community has made for humanity. For these reasons, STAND Canada’s Rohingya Refugee Crisis Campaign (https://www.standcanada.org/action-alert-tell-trudeau-condemn-myanmars-military-camera/) has been explicitly advocating for Prime Minister Trudeau to condemn the Myanmar military for its crimes against humanity by taking advantage of his international influence.
In light of such catastrophe, Canada has taken both passive and active efforts to address the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. In terms of passive engagement, it has been reported that the Government of Canada has contributed approximately $12.5 million for the Myanmar Crisis Relief Fund (https://pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2018/05/23/canadas-strategy-respond-rohingya-crisis) since the beginning of 2017. In contrast, more active initiatives began to take place since September 2017. Prime Minister Trudeau appointed Mr. Rae as his Special Envoy to Myanmar (https://pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2018/05/23/canadas-strategy-respond-rohingya-crisis) for diplomatic engagement to address the crisis and to advise on how Canada could best respond and support such crisis. Prime Minister Trudeau has also spoken directly with San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, to express “deep concerns” (https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-meeting-aung-san-suu-kyi-vietnam-1.4396538) over the crisis around this time.
On May 23 2018, Prime Minister Trudeau explicitly stated that “Canada will not stand idle” while while Rohingya communities suffer gross human rights violations as “[Canada] share a global responsibility to respond to this crisis”. Canada’s Strategy to Respond to Rohingya Crisis 2018 (http://international.gc.ca/world-monde/issues_development-enjeux_developpement/response_conflict-reponse_conflits/crisis-crises/strat-rohingya.aspx?lang=eng) addresses 4 core objectives which includes: (1) alleviating humanitarian crisis in Myanmar; (2) encouraging positive political developments in Myanmar; (3) ensuring accountability for the crimes committed; and (4) enhancing international cooperation in order to catalyze international support.
Most recently, on June 25 2018, both Canada and the European Union imposed further sanctions against 7 military leaders involved in human rights violations in Rakhine State (https://www.canada.ca/en/global-affairs/news/2018/06/canada-imposes-further-sanctions-in-response-to-ongoing-crisis-in-myanmar.html). The Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland announced these targeted sanctions are a result of “significant role played by senior military officials in the brutal violence and persecution against the Rohingya communities in Myanmar”. The Government of Canada further emphasized Canada’s commitment to protecting the human rights of Rohingya and all other ethnic groups in Myanmar.
Although the “awkward silence” has been an unfortunate international trend, Canada has taken one of the first initiatives to stand for humanity. It is evident that Canada has demonstrated substantial progress in responding to Myanmar’s Humanitarian Crisis between 2017 and early 2018. With regards to such advancement, the latter half of 2018 may be even more promising for justice.