Mr. Speaker, I want to begin tonight by thanking the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan for requesting this emergency debate on this very serious situation affecting the Rohingya people in Myanmar. I want to let him know that I did have a letter drafted and written, ready to go to request this, and I have no resentment whatsoever. Rather, I have only respect for him and the fact that he was able to request this debate. I am glad this debate was put forth and that members from all parties have engaged in it with competence, compassion, and great concern.
This is Canada's Parliament. It is the House of the people, and in the House of the people we take time to debate matters of great concern, as well as urgent matters. Tonight we are developing a narrative on all sides of the House that is lifting up the concerns of Canadians about the atrocities being experienced by the Rohingya people in Myanmar.
The people of Don Valley West have spoken to me about this. Last weekend I met with several hundred of them in a park, where they were raising funds for the Rohingya people. They asked me to bring their concerns to the House of Commons. I am grateful that we have the opportunity to do that tonight. I need to say that I am outraged and that I am expressing the outrage of the people of Don Valley West at another situation in the world that needs to be stopped. We, as Canadians, need to call upon leaders in this country and around the world to engage in a new way of doing world politics.
Like all Canadians, I am very concerned about the persecution of the Rohingya.
According to reports emanating from the region, a campaign of ethnic cleansing is being carried out against the Rohingya. The Prime Minister has said that the responsibility for resolving this crisis falls squarely on the shoulders of Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar's military leaders.
It is important to reiterate our condemnation of this situation and urge Aung San Suu Kyi to have security forces put an end to the violence and protect civilians.
We will continue to support the Rohingya people. The way they are being treated is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue.
The sentiments that the Prime Minister expressed on this issue are profound and important. In his letter to the State Counsellor, he called upon her to live out the expectations that Canada had when it offered her honorary citizenship. In a very strongly worded letter, he demanded that she absolutely condemn the violence taking place in her country and find ways to bring together the peoples of that country in peaceful, just, and long-lasting ways.
The Rohingya people are recognized by the United Nations as probably the most persecuted minority in the world. In recent months, 214 Rohingya villages in Myanmar have been torched to ashes. Human Rights Watch estimates that 50% of all those villages have been destroyed, according to satellite pictures taken by Amnesty International.
Since August 25, 400,000 refugees have fled Myanmar into Bangladesh, according to the UNHCR. More Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh in the space of four weeks than refugees from Africa fled by sea to Europe in 2016, and 80% of the 400,000 refugees arriving last month were women and children. Among the women, a United Nations' survey found that 52% had been raped. Bangladeshi officials have said that land mines have been planted on Myanmar's side of the border, posing a threat to every single Rohingya, who are facing terrorism and persecution and are trying to save their lives.
The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, chaired by Kofi Annan, recommended in its final report:
...urgent and sustained action on a number of fronts to prevent violence, maintain peace, foster reconciliation and offer a sense of hope to the State’s hard-pressed population.
This important report, in addition to dozens of other reports by several international groups, has repeatedly condemned the actions of the Myanmar security forces. I am pleased that Burma Task Force Canada has taken time to educate us.
Many of us are new to this issue, newer than we should be. I know that the subcommittee on human rights has looked at this issue. I know that the foreign affairs committee has looked at it. I know that others have raised a concern. However, we have not done enough as a Parliament, and I say that our government has still not done enough.
I commend them for their strong condemnation of the actions of the military. I commend them for their strong exhortation to the state counsellor to live up to the expectations of our Canadian citizenship. I commend the Minister of International Development, who is offering aid both in Bangladesh and to those who may have to flee to other places. However, we can still do more.
The Canadians who live in Don Valley West have told me that they want the government to consider matching grants. They want every charitable dollar that is raised in Canada to be matched by the government. I hope we can raise that issue with the government tonight so it can consider that as well.
As we express our outrage, we recognize that we could spend a lot of time debating the language we use around this. I want to say to the House, and to the people of Canada, that I do not have time for debate on the issue. What we have to do is save lives, find a way to garner peace, and be humans in a place that has increasingly become inhumane. I would ask the House this. Did we not learn the lesson from the Armenian genocide to stand up and do everything we can to stop this atrocity? Are the scars of the Jewish Holocaust not profound enough for us to learn to stand with vulnerable people who are being raped, killed, or driven from their homes? As humanity, we have faced this again and again. However, we do not seem to learn the lessons. I have heard from all sides of the House that we need to find new solutions for international crises like this, as well as the domestic crises that are happening within countries' borders. We are not there yet. We need to act. We need to find ways to act multilaterally and bilaterally. We need to encourage Canadians to reach into their pockets to make sure we can provide humanitarian aid as we need to.
I am not totally new to this issue. When I was first serving as a member of Parliament a number of years ago, I had a young man come to see me about several development issues. His name was Raess Ahmed. Raess engaged with me in conversation as a smart, bright, young student at the University of Toronto. As the conversation ensued, I asked him where his family had come from before coming to Canada. He said it was a long story. I asked him to tell me the story. He told me of the Rohingya people. He told me the story of his family leaving their homeland, stateless, their citizenship having been revoked, of finding a home in Bangladesh and then making their way to Canada as refugees. He told me the story and it broke my heart. I recognized how little we know in Canada about the Rohingya people. It is estimated that there are only 400 people in Canada of Rohingya background. However, there are 35 million Canadians who need to stand with the Rohingya people. We are doing that tonight. As we gather in this place, we talk, we offer our words, we debate, we offer sentiments, and we offer our outrage. We now call upon the government to keep pressure on the State of Myanmar, on the military forces that are running that country, and on the multilateral partners who need to work together with us. We need to find a way to ensure this never happens again.
I am again thankful for the opportunity we have tonight to express Canadians' outrage, and to gather in this place with commitment, not only in this case but in every situation where human beings are at risk and where humanity is not living up to what we would call each other to.