1st Session, 42nd Parliament
Volume 150, Issue 138

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

Foreign Affairs

Burma—Persecution of Rohingya Muslims

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: My question is also to the leader in the Senate. According to a recent CBC report, 412,000 Rohingya people have fled from their homes because of the escalating violence against them from Myanmar’s security forces. The stories from Rohingya refugees are absolutely heartbreaking. For example, Asif and Suleman are young Rohingya brothers who lived in the Rakhine region before it was attacked. In early August, the two children, who were 8 and 12 years old, were playing in their backyard and were unaware that the security forces had forced their way into their home. When they heard gunshots coming from inside, they knew their parents and little brother had been killed and they ran for their lives. Today, the two boys struggle with trauma inside a refugee camp in Bangladesh. We all saw last night that those refugee camps are now flooded.

Leader, Canada must take swift action to end the crisis. I know that Minister Freeland has spoken. I know that she’s made a strong statement. I know that the Prime Minister — and I applaud him for that — has spoken to the authorities in Myanmar to express our concerns.

We know that the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is currently leading a commission investigating the crisis unfolding in Myanmar, but how are we supporting Kofi Annan’s advisory commission? What resources are we providing and are we playing a leading role there?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank Senator Jaffer for her questions on this subject. We spoke about this in June. Frankly, the fears of June have been exceeded by the circumstances, and that is absolutely appalling. As the senator has referenced, the Prime Minister has not only called the state councillor to condemn and call on her to intervene but has also followed up with a very strong letter to urge personal attention to this matter.

Canada has contributed $9.8 million of humanitarian assistance that is being coordinated through the international organizations and stands ready to do more.

This is United Nations General Assembly Week. The Prime Minister and key ministers will be in New York. Among other urgent issues, this is one that is high on Minister Freeland’s agenda. I can assure the honourable senator and all honourable senators that Canada will do what Canadians expect, namely, to be part of the forefront of concerted international action not only to deal with the humanitarian crisis but also to do what we can to deal with the root cause of this, which we all know is a very complex but very tragic situation.

Senator Jaffer: Thank you very much for your answer. I appreciate it.

Leader, you are one person who has designed many peace processes and done a lot of peace building in your career. If there ever was an opportunity for Canada to play a role in peace building with Bangladesh and with Myanmar, it is now.


May I ask that you ask the minister what she is doing, what resources we are giving to Kofi Annan, and what resources we are putting aside for peace building? Are we going to be an active country when it comes to peace building?

Senator Harder: Again, I want to assure the honourable senator that Canada will be and is an active partner in this. I will bring her concerns and the concerns of the Senate at large to the attention of the appropriate ministers. The Minister of International Development is part of the group in New York, as well, to meet with her colleagues on this matter. I look forward to an early opportunity to report back to the senator.