Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I appreciate the opportunity to meet again with the committee and very much appreciate the opportunity to talk about my report and also the current situation in both Myanmar and Bangladesh.
I can advise the members of the committee—I'm sure they know—that I will be joining Minister Freeland in her travels to Bangladesh and that I will be staying a bit longer in the region. We hope to have an opportunity to discuss the situation with the members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation as well as with the Government of Bangladesh. I'm hoping very much that we'll be able to make another trip to Cox's Bazar, particularly in light of the deteriorating physical conditions in the camp.
That is perhaps where I'll start. I'm confident that the members of this committee will have read my report, so I don't intend to go over it in detail; I don't think it's necessary. I would like to give you the basic thrust of the report and perhaps provide a bit of an update with respect to where things have happened.
The first thing I would say is that this is a very fast-moving situation, not only with respect to the conditions in the camp but also with respect to the other issues I've identified in my report.
First of all with respect to the humanitarian situation in both Bangladesh and Myanmar, the weather conditions have begun to change, and we are now into a rainy season, which means not that it rains 24 hours a day but that when it does rain it rains very hard and has a very dramatic impact on an environment that has already been seriously impacted by the arrival of 700,000 refugees.
The conditions in the camp are very bad. Members will perhaps have noticed that the minister of social welfare of Myanmar paid a visit to the camp a couple of weeks ago and commented on how bad it was and was very moved by what he saw and moved by the circumstances.
I think there will be many reasons that people might choose to focus attention on other aspects of my report, but I want to emphasize that from the point of view of the immediacy of this situation, we need to be fully aware—and this has been my message to the government all the way through—just how serious and life-threatening the conditions in the camp currently are.
We have every reason to believe that because of the weather and other circumstances, they will become even more so in the weeks ahead. There is not only the threat of mudslides; there is also the threat of waterborne diseases. The weather itself makes temporary schools and any buildings that are under risk of collapsing and falling down not available. It will lead to an immediate deterioration in the quality of services in the camp. We have a situation in which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Office for Migration have together issued an appeal for $951 million U.S., which is well over $1 billion CAD.
The response so far has not been that strong. A good deal of the focus of my report is thus on the extent of that particular aspect of the crisis: the need for us to deal with the health issues, the sanitation issues, and the housing issues, and the need to create conditions that are conducive to learning and to human health. We're far from having those conditions today.
That's a point that I want to continue to emphasize. I hope that we'll continue to have the support of members in pushing the government—I say this to all members of all parties—to do whatever we can to make real progress on Canada stepping up and contributing even more. As members will know, I've called upon the government to up its funding substantially to $150 million a year for four years.
That will include issues other than just the conditions in the camps in Bangladesh, but the majority of that money will certainly go to the camps in Bangladesh. We need to continue to see that level of funding as the appropriate level for Canada, when we look at the severity of the situation and just how bad it is.
Second, with respect to Myanmar, there are still hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in Myanmar living in very vulnerable conditions. Some are in IDP camps. There's a very large IDP camp in Sittwe. There are other camps, but most importantly, there are people living in conditions of lockdown and with very inadequate supplies of food. There's no work available, and it's impossible to get out on the land. There are severe curfews. People feel at risk, and feel that their lives are threatened, which I think contributes to the other news people will have seen recently, which is about the boats that have left and are leaving and the circumstances that are forcing people to take to the water. That has always been a fear, but the fear now seems to be coming true.
I think the key demand Canada has to continue to make with respect to the immediate situation in Myanmar is for the Government of Myanmar to meet certain standards and conditions with respect to international access, humanitarian access, freedom of movement among the population, ability to work, an end to boycotts, and everything possible to create the conditions on the ground that will allow for a possible return of the Rohingya population to Myanmar.
To this point, it is the view of most governments and it is the view of most international organizations that those conditions have not been met and that we're not yet at a point where people can say that it is the time to begin the process of repatriation. The repatriation issue is not about buildings or infrastructure. It's about what the actual human conditions are and what the human relations between people are that would allow for people to actually return without threats to their lives, threats to their security, and threats to their health. Right now, those conditions don't apply and don't exist. There's still very limited international humanitarian access in the north, and this remains a critical issue.
On the subject of impunity and accountability, the report lays out a number of things that need to happen. I think it's encouraging that there is a growing recognition in a number of countries about the severity of the potential crimes against humanity that need to be dealt with and about where we need to deal with the consequences of the situation. I think there are continuing efforts at the United Nations Human Rights Council of which a fact-finding mission is coming to conclusions that are similar to those of many others who've been gathering information. I think in June we'll hear from the Human Rights Council on the fact-finding mission, and we'll hear a final report in September.
I've had the opportunity to speak with members of the committee. I've had a good opportunity to discuss these issues in The Hague. I've had an opportunity to meet with experts on human rights violations and international law. I will continue to urge the Canadian government to lead in this direction and I hope very much this is a recommendation that the government will take up.
Finally, my recommendation focuses on the need for countries to work together. I know that Minister Freeland raised this issue at the G7 as well as at the Commonwealth. I know the Prime Minister had a meeting with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and raised issues around humanitarian access to the camps in Bangladesh and some of the bureaucratic and regulatory problems we're having in getting people into the camps as doctors, nurses, engineers, and other people who need to do their work.
That seems to most of us to be an issue we will have to continue to raise. I know that Minister Freeland and I will be raising these issues when we visit Bangladesh at the end of next week.
I've encouraged the government, as much as possible, to work effectively, together with Parliament and with all departments. It's a constant refrain of mine, based on my experience in government, that getting government departments to work together is essential and not always easy. There are occasionally turf wars and people are not necessarily fully aware of what others are doing, so there really has to be a constant effort to pull things together.
I hope the government will respond positively to the suggestion that there should be a regular report to Parliament and that this is something that needs to be documented and reported on.
I want to say something about the world refugee issue. I think it's important for us, in addition to a number of other contexts in which we have to put this current conflict, to be aware that there are tens of millions of people in refugee camps; that we are experiencing the greatest refugee crisis we've seen in the world since the end of the Second World War; and that the current system is clearly broken in terms of how these camps are being funded, how we're providing for them, the obligation of host countries, and the obligation of other member states to increase the level of funding so that we deal with the extent of the crisis.
On the question of resettlement, I'm always interested in what the response to a report is and I was interested to see that the response of a number of media outlets to my report was to focus on the question of whether we should be resettling the Rohingya refugees in Canada. My recommendation to the government was that of course we should be talking to other countries and talking to ourselves about how this can be done. We regularly take in refugees; we as a country have a refugee policy, and I think it's only natural that we would consider the Rohingya refugees among others whom we would want to admit to the country.
I was frankly troubled by the response from many people on Twitter and on Facebook to that one particular recommendation. I believe the vast majority of Canadians are very generous and understand that we are going to continue to have to be generous if we're going to make a difference.
I've been very pleased and gratified by the response of the Rohingya community in Canada to my report. I've had an opportunity to meet with a number of members of that community in the last several months. It's been a very important part of my experience, and I really appreciate the opportunity.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, I hope there have been some discussions among the parties about a guest I brought to the committee.
Mr. Tun Khin is a leading Rohingya activist who has been living in England for the last several years. He has met with the British Parliament and with political leaders in Congress and in Europe as well. When he got in touch with me and said he'd like to talk to me about my report, I said, “Well, I'm going to be in Ottawa on this day, so if you want to come with me to meet with the members of the committee, you're more than welcome to come.”
I would hope that at the end of my comments he might have an opportunity to say a few words. I don't want to eat into anybody's time—I realize the sensitivity of these things, having been in this place for a while—but I look forward to discussing further with Mr. Khin. I know he would welcome the opportunity to say a few words as we get closer to two o'clock.