Advocates urge Canada to do more for Rohingya


OTTAWA – At least 250 people rallied on Parliament Hill on Sunday to demand the Canadian government do more than use their words to call for an end to the atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

The powerful military in Myanmar is accused of burning down the homes Rohingya Muslims, forcing more than 400,000 members of the persecuted minority to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh as refugees, according to the latest figures from the United Nations.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the celebrated de facto leader of Myanmar, has come under harsh international criticism for failing to speak out against the violence.

Many of those gathered in Ottawa were demanding the Liberal government strip Suu Kyi of her honorary Canadian citizenship.

“As Canadians, we believe in democracy, freedom, protection of human rights and a commitment to the rule of law,” said Fareed Khan, who has sponsored a petition calling on the Liberal government to revoke the honour.

“When Canada conferred honorary Canadian status on Aung San Suu Kyi, it was because she was said to embody these principles,” Khan told the crowd gathered below the steps leading up to Parliament Hill.

“Regrettably, that no longer seems to be the case,” he said. “She no longer deserves the honour of being in the company of people like Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Malala Yousafzai.”

They also called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to join with allies to create a safe haven for Rohingya Muslims within Myanmar as a way of acting on their commitment to the responsibility to protect vulnerable populations from persecution.

They also urged the Canadian government to work with the UN Refugee Agency to ensure those who wish to settle elsewhere are able to do so.

At a rally in Toronto on Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said what is happening in Myanmar “looks a lot like ethnic cleansing.”

She also said both she and Trudeau plan to focus on the issue during their upcoming visit to the UN General Assembly in New York.

Freeland also noted Trudeau spoke directly to Suu Kyi last week, when he asked her to “raise her voice” on behalf of the Muslim minority in her country.

Liberal MP Karen McCrimmon, who attended the rally Sunday, told the crowd she is aware that more needs to be done.

“We know that action is needed. We know that it is time for Canada to speak up,” said the Ottawa-area MP.

“I think our prime minister and our foreign minister have done that already, but now we need more,” she said.