Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Flamborough—Glanbrook.
Many of my colleagues, of all political stripes, have risen here tonight to outline the extreme, dire humanitarian crisis the Rohingya people are facing in Myanmar. What is up for debate tonight is Canada's response.
What is disappointing to me is that many people in the House are aware of the situation, but we just missed a huge opportunity. That was the Prime Minister's speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week. As the minister just mentioned, the Prime Minister purports to have a feminist policy. He purports to stand up for human rights, yet when in front of the world, he failed to mention this crisis. The entire world was gathered in New York. This was the opportunity for Canada to raise this issue and to put forward a strong, coordinated response that many people in the world would look to from Canada to follow. That did not happen.
I want to congratulate my colleague, the member for Sherwood Park, for raising this issue in debate in the House tonight, and of course, the Speaker, for granting it.
The question really becomes where we go from here. First, I want to express my extreme disappointment that this did not come up in the Prime Minister's speech to the UNGA. I do not know why he bothered, to be honest. This is one of the most dire humanitarian crises facing the world, and he failed to mention it in his speech.
Second, a lot of people have raised the question of whether Canada should seek to revoke the citizenship bestowed on of one of Myanmar's senior political leaders by Canada.
I would hope that at the end of this debate today, we would agree on two things. First is that the Liberal government would take it upon itself to immediately encourage her, and not only her but the entire global community in echoing the sentiment, to allow observers, journalists, and aid workers into Rakhine State to adequately assess the situation. We are only hearing a smattering of what I think is the full picture of the atrocities that are happening there. Aid is not being delivered appropriately. We should impress upon the government of Myanmar that this is the absolute least it can do. We should also shame the government. If the government has such deeply held racist beliefs that it cannot be delivered to their fellow humans, then the entire world is ashamed of it. That would be ask number one that I hope we would agree on.
Second, a lot of the situation, but not all of it, is due to the fact that in 1982, there was a law passed in Myanmar that stripped the Rohingya people of their citizenship. This left them without the same protections and safety nets that those living in Myanmar with citizenship have access to. Allowing the Rohingya to have the same protection as others by giving them their deserved citizenship would signal to the international community that the Myanmar government is ready to end this persecution.
This discriminatory and unjust law passed in 1982 must be repealed immediately. This is something the Liberal government, through Justin Trudeau, should be asking the global community to put pressure on the Myanmar government to undertake.
These are two simple things I think there would be a lot of consensus on in the global community. These two actions I think would begin the path of providing needed assistance, understanding the true scope of the humanitarian crisis, and allowing the Rohingya people to become full participants in their society.
The Minister of International Development mentioned her feminist policy. I want to speak specifically to something I believe is an element of genocide, not just ethnic cleansing, in this particular case. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has rightfully called the acts against the Rohingya a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.
There is something further I would like to highlight tonight. It is a policy of Myanmar that sheds light on the full persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in the state. It was noted in a 2014 report by an organization called Fortify Rights that since 2005, Myanmar has imposed a two-child policy on the Rohingya in two particular townships in northern Rakhine State. This policy has been described as a violation of human rights law. This policy, known as regional order 1/2005, is not only concerning because of its violation of human rights but because of the effect it has had on women and their reproductive health. Reports have shown that because of this policy, women have had to undergo illegal and unsafe abortions. These have led to health problems and even death, in some cases. Frankly, if Canada truly cares about protecting women's rights, and if the Prime Minister truly is a feminist, he will do something now to end this injustice.
Not only is this an injustice toward women and their rights, it is an element of genocide. When one removes the ability of a people, a specific ethnic or religious group, to have children to prevent them from propagating, that is an element of genocide. It is trying to end their race. To me, this is something the world and the Canadian government should be drawing attention to, given the severity of the impact it has had and will continue to have on the Rohingya people.
Many stakeholder groups in Canada have asked for specific declarations of action from the Canadian government, and I would like to echo them here, into the record, today. These organizations are calling on Canada to condemn the human rights abuses in northern Rakhine State and to call on State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to provide access to Myanmar, including Rakhine State, for the Human Rights Council's fact-finding mission. This should have been mentioned by Canada in the statement to the UN General Assembly last week.
We should also continue to call upon both the State Counsellor and military commanders to protect all civilians and to grant the restoration of full humanitarian access to northern Rakhine State as an issue of urgency.
I want to re-emphasize the need for the repeal of the 1982 citizenship law so that these people can participate fully in their society and their economy with the same rights afforded to other people in their group.
In situations like this, I think North Americans are so blessed. Certainly there are elements of extreme poverty and things we need to overcome in Canada, but sometimes I think we really forget how bad it is.
I would like to read the testimony of someone in the region. This is why it is so important for us to act beyond pretty, vacant words, as we saw at the UN this week.
“I gave birth to my daughter 10 days ago, but she's starving and I've not eaten for four days. The day after she was born, I came to Bangladesh, along with my family. There are eight of us under one tarp now. The army cut people and raped women. It happened to my close relatives in our village. All women are fleeing to protect themselves from being raped. My husband also told me the army is not sparing pregnant women. The army is killing and slaughtering people everywhere so that our full family ran away carrying only our clothes, leaving all of our belongings behind. They are shooting people in groups, with women being threatened at gunpoint. I heard they are throwing bodies in the river. I saw a pile of dead bodies. In the daytime, we hid behind trees far from the house when we heard the army was coming and returned in the evening. The day after we left, we heard our house was also burned. My child was born only hours after getting on the boat.”
This testimony was provided to an aid agency in Canada that asked me not to use its name for fear of being associated with the testimony of this group and not having access there. That is how bad the situation is.
We cannot purport to stand for human rights in this country without acknowledging the atrocities there and demanding that the world act. I would also like to see the government, in the spirit of the UN Secretary-General's call for UN reform this week, go further, on a more macro level, and request that the United Nations' budget, of which only 2% goes toward protecting human rights, be allocated so that we have more direct funding through this very bureaucratic organization to help the people we are discussing. The UN should not be about cocktail parties. It should not be about hollow speeches to empty chambers. It should be standing up for what is right. That did not happen in New York last week. The government has an opportunity to rectify that this week through this debate. I echo my colleague's call for action on this very terrible and dire humanitarian crisis.