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Committee Hearings on Rohingya

As an internationally recognized defender of human rights, Canada must do everything in its power to pressure the Myanmar government to stop its systematic abuse of Rohingyas in Rakhine State, Senate Committee on Human Rights chair Senator Jim Munson and deputy-chair Salma Ataullahjan, urged in a joint statement Tuesday.

Committee members finished the second of two hearings into the crisis late Monday.

 Human rights groups told Senators that the Myanmar authorities are rendering tens of thousands of men, women and children homeless in what they described as a deliberate act of ethnic cleansing.

 “It is urgent for immediate international action to take place in Myanmar,” said Senator Munson. “What is needed is targeted sanctions, an arms embargo and humanitarian assistance. It is clear ethnic cleansing is taking place. These are crimes against humanity.”

Senator Ataullahjan said the evidence that committee members heard had been “heartbreaking.”

“As a great defender of human rights, Canada should tie aid to human rights when there is such horrific abuse happening,” said Senator Ataullahjan. “I know that people are afraid of using the word, but given all I have read and the testimony I have heard, I see elements of genocide. I know that Myanmar is a fledgling democracy, but democracy is supposed to be for all people. The killing must stop.”

Senator Ataullahjan said that Canada should be especially concerned by the displacement of children.

According to UNICEF, up to 60 percent of the more than half-million Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar since August 25 are children. As of September 20, UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations have identified as many as 1,400 unaccompanied children who crossed the border alone — without their parents or any other relatives. It’s likely that this number vastly underestimates the real amount, aid workers say.

The Bangladesh High Commissioner to Canada, His Excellency Mizanur Rahman, told committee members that his country is doing all it can to help the refugees, many of whom are children and women who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Myanmar authorities.

Senator Munson said Canada should also be focused on helping alleviate the situation in Bangladesh.