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Aung San Suu Kyi

I rise today in support of Senator Omidvar’s Motion. Honourable Senators, the persecution of the Rohingya population in Myanmar is an issue that I first raised with the Burmese delegation in 2012 and have raised many times in this Chamber since 2013, by way of Statements, Questions and a Motion, which passed in Sept 2017, asking the Government of Canada to call upon the Government of Myanmar:

  • to bring an immediate end to the violence and gross violations of human rights against Rohingya Muslims;
  • to fulfill its pledge to uphold the spirit and letter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and
  • to respond to the urgent calls of the international community and allow independent monitors entry into the country forthwith, in particular Rakhine State.

Through those efforts, I had hoped, to no avail, that Canada would urgently take the lead globally in addressing the crisis.

Honourable senators, I am in full support this Motion, but I also implore the Government to remain steadfast in, (or increase), its humanitarian commitments, particularly in the areas of education, health care and support for women and girls who have experienced rape and other forms of sexual violence at the hands of the Myanmar military and those who have given birth to children as a result of that trauma.

My commitment to this issue was a catalyst for the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights to hold two special meetings, in the fall of 2017, to examine the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar. At those meetings UN officials, activists and diplomats urged Canada to take action to help end the Rohingya crisis.

Moreover, this past June, following his visits to the region and production of an interim and final report, The Honourable Bob Rae, Special Envoy to Myanmar, appeared before the Human Rights Committee to speak to his recommendations and findings which included:

“Strong signals that crimes against humanity were committed in the forcible and violent displacement of more than 671,000 Rohingya from Rakhine State” and further, that “evidence demonstrating potential genocide against the Rohingya must be assessed.”

When asked by Senator Hartling what he would say about the impacts of the crisis to make it real for Canadians, Mr. Rae  emotionally spoke of a man with whom he had a conversation in the refugee camp in Bangladesh – about what had happened to him, the discrimination and his struggles – a man that was very articulate, controlled and very much in charge of his emotions, until it was time to say goodbye. In that moment when Mr. Rae asked what he would like him to tell the Prime Minister, the man grabbed a hold of him and started to cry. He held on for a very long time and then said simply: “Tell him we’re human.”

I would like acknowledge and thank Mr. Rae for his work as Special Envoy and furthermore for his humanity and leadership on this complex issue, both at home and abroad.

On the question of accountability and impunity he wrote: “since the end of the Second World War and the founding of the UN, the world has been involved in the establishment of basic standards of international law that are intended to ensure that crimes involving threats to human life and security do not go unassessed and unpunished.”

“Those who are responsible for breaches of international law, including crimes against humanity, should be brought to justice. This applies to all those involved, including state actors and non-state actors, armies, and individuals.”

Subsequently, the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar has concluded that top Myanmar military officials should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar, where warranted, and called for the establishment of a special mechanism for the collection of evidence.

In this regard, I am encouraged that the UN Human Rights Council has just recently adopted a resolution to create a system for the collection and preservation of evidence and to prepare files to assist prosecutors in bringing cases to trial.

Perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian law must be held accountable.

The UN mission further found that Aung San Suu Kyi had “not used her de facto position as Head of Government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding of events, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population.”

Honourable Senators, through her inaction Aung San Suu Kyi was complicit in the gravest of crimes under international law.

I, therefore, ask that you support this Motion and all of its provisions including the revocation of the honorary Canadian citizenship bestowed upon Aung San Suu Kyi on October 17, 2007.

Thank you.