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Open Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Rohingya Genocide

Open Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Rohingya Genocide


The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, PC, MP

Prime Minister of Canada Office of the Prime Minister

80 Wellington Street Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2;

Dear Prime Minister:

We write to you as a community of Canadians deeply concerned about Canada’s so far limited response to the Rohingya crisis, and particularly about the fact that Canada has yet to designate as genocide the egregious conduct of Myanmar carried out (and continuing to be carried out) against that country’s defenseless Rohingya ethnic minority.

Since August 2017, Myanmar has committed atrocities against the Rohingya in plain sight of the international community. Numerous reliable reports indicate the mass murder of tens of thousands of Rohingya civilians (including children and babies), the widespread and systematic gang rape of thousands of Rohingya women and girls, the orphaning of tens of thousands of Rohingya children, the complete destruction of more than 360 Rohingya villages and the creation of more than 720,000 Rohingya refugees. The exact numbers of victims are unknown as Myanmar refuses full and unfettered access of expert, impartial investigators into Rakhine state where the atrocities occurred. In the face of these horrific crimes, the world’s response has been largely to watch without intervening, to issue weak and ineffective objections to or criticisms of what Myanmar has perpetrated, to respond meaningfully only to the resulting humanitarian crisis and not to the source of the crisis, and to take limited steps towards the prospective accountability of a handful of Myanmar officials responsible for genocide.

Research and studies by international human rights scholars and prestigious bodies like Yale Law School and Queen Mary University of London have concluded that what the Rohingya have experienced is a genocide, born of a genocide agenda, systematically implemented by the Myanmar authorities since at least the early 1980s when the Rohingya were in effect stripped of their citizenship and their basic rights. The fact that it took the mass murder of tens of thousands of people since last year, the destruction of hundreds of communities, and the creation of the world’s largest refugee camp to bring this issue to the world’s attention is scandalous. Furthermore, despite the depravity, the horror, and sheer magnitude of the crimes and atrocities committed, the international community has yet to take any actions to defend or protect the Rohingya remaining in Myanmar in response to the policy of genocide by the military and civilian leaders of that nation.

With the release on July 19, 2018 of a comprehensive report by the NGO Fortify-Rights about how the Rohingya were specifically targeted for extermination, it is an inescapable conclusion that the atrocities were pre-planned and, therefore, intentional. The 160-page report reveals how the Myanmar government made systematic preparations to commit mass atrocities against Rohingya civilians up to a year before August 2017. Such meticulous planning to commit atrocities aimed at one specific ethnic group, with the premeditated intent to destroy that group at least in part, is the very idea and definition of genocide.

Furthermore, on August 27, 2018 the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar released the results of their investigation and recommended that Myanmar’s top military officials be charged with the crime of genocide. In addition they noted the complicity of Aung San Suu Kyi who failed to use her status as de facto civilian leader of Myanmar to prevent the atrocities from taking place.

According to noted genocide scholar Dr. Gregory Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch, there are 10 stages of genocide — classification, symbolization, discrimination, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, persecution, extermination and denial. The Myanmar government has engaged in all of these stages and continues to carry out stage eight and nine — persecution and extermination — while executing the last stage (denial) of the crimes they have committed.

The world’s response to Rohingya persecution appears no different than what happened in Rwanda, Darfur and the Balkans, where the world was aware of the terrible things to come or occurring but did nothing to prevent or stop them. It is also similar to the response of western states to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany, where they were aware of what was happening but did not intervene to save the lives of the innocent.

Prime Minister, on several occasions since last September either you or Liberal Members of Parliament have spoken out publicly about what happens if we do not remain committed to defending human rights. You expressed those sentiments when you spoke at the dedication of the National Holocaust Memorial on September 27, 2017 when you said “this monument is a reminder of the devastating cost of allowing hatred and tyranny to overcome openness, inclusion and freedom.” Members of your government expressed similar sentiments about opposing hate, bigotry and xenophobia when they spoke on Victims of Genocide Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and for Holocaust Memorial Day. While the words are a welcome historic reminder of the human consequences of closing our eyes to human rights atrocities, they are empty and meaningless if not acted upon to prevent a genocide taking place before our eyes.

Canada’s failure (along with that of the international community) to recognize and address the Rohingya Genocide a year after atrocities came to light is not only inexcusable it also undermines the international legal system and in fact encourages the Myanmar government to repeat this violence against other minorities — a process that is already under way against the Kachin and Karen ethnic minorities. The absence of a clear, effective and quick response to one genocide then encourages other genocides. In this regard, it is deeply troubling to read recent reports of steps taken by politicians in Assam, India to strip millions Indian Muslims of their citizenship, corral them into internment camps, violate their fundamental human rights, and raise the prospect of their forced deportation from the only home they have known.

As a long-standing party to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was signed by former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson when he was Canada’s UN representative, Canada has both a moral and legal obligation to act in the case of the Rohingya. So far, Canada has failed even to mention the Genocide Convention much less to take action. Moreover, as welcome as humanitarian aid is, it is no substitute for decisive measures that would prevent or arrest ongoing genocide, punish those who perpetrate it, and hold the State of Myanmar responsible for its breaches of this key treaty of the post-World War 2 international order.

As Canadians, we want our government to be a global leader in efforts to resolve this crisis and give the Rohingya hope for a better future. Therefore, we urgently call upon the government to live up to Canada’s international legal obligations under the UN Genocide Convention by labeling as genocide what is still happening to the Rohingya people in Myanmar. In addition, we call on Canada to ensure that justice is served by seeking the prosecution of all of Myanmar’s military and civilian leaders who are responsible for or complicit in perpetrating genocide, and ensure that the government of Myanmar is held accountable and pays reparations for destroying the lives and livelihoods of the Rohingya victims of their genocidal policies.

If Canada wants in fact to uphold the rules-based international order, and if Canada is genuinely committed to the words “never again”, then such fundamental norms and powerful words need to be supported by clear and decisive actions to protect, defend and seek justice for the Rohingya — a people that have been targeted for extermination by a racist and xenophobic regime that sees them as less than human.

Sincerely / Cordialement,

Fareed Khan Rohingya, Human Rights Network

Anwar Arkani, Rohingya Association of Canada

Hugh Doherty, Canadians In Support of Refugees in Dire Need

Noor Nizam, Support Group for the Rohingya People (Hamilton)

Prof. John Packer, Director / Directeur Human Rights Research & Education Centre Centre de Recherche et d’Enseignement sur les Droits de la Personne Faculté de droit / Faculty of Law Université d’Ottawa / University of Ottawa

Prof. Francois Crepeau, Director McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism Oppenheimer Professor of International Law McGill University

Prof. Fannie Lafontaine, Founder and Co-Director, Clinique de droit international pénal et humanitaire Director, Canadian Partnership for International Justice Canada Research Chair on International Criminal Justice and Human Rights Faculté de droit / Faculty of Law Université Laval

Prof. Audrey Macklin, Director Chair in Human Rights Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies Faculty of Law University of Toronto

Kyle Matthews, Executive Director Montreal Institute for Genocide & Human Rights Studies Concordia University

Prof. Errol P. Mendes, LL.B., LL.M., O.Ont, LSM Editor-in-Chief, National Journal of Constitutional Law President, International Commission of Jurists of Law Université d’Ottawa / University of Ottawa

Prof. Samer Muscati, Director International Human Rights Program Faculty of Law University of Toronto

Dr. Christina Szurlej, Endowed Chair & Director Atlantic Human Rights Centre St. Thomas University

Prof. François Tanguay-Renaud, LL.B., B.C.L., D.Phil Co-Director, Jack & Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security Osgoode Hall Law School York University

Prof. Emir Ramic, Chairman Institute for Research of Genocide Canada

The Hon. Senator Marilou McPhedran, C.M. Senator for Manitoba Senate of Cananda

The Hon. Senator Kim Pate, C.M. Senator for Ontario Senate of Canada Prof. Sharry Aiken, Faculty of Law Queen’s University

Professor Kristi Allain, Department of Sociology St. Thomas University Dr. Vermonja R. Alston, J.D., Ph.D. Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies York University

Prof. Ghadeer Anan, M.D., F.R.C.P.C. Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Medicine Dalhousie University

Prof. Aime B. Avolonto, Department of French Studies Glendon College, York University

Prof. Reem Bahdi Faculty of Law University of Windsor Prof. Natasha Bakht Faculté de droit / Faculty of Law Université d’Ottawa / University of Ottawa

Prof. Faisal Bhabha Osgoode Hall Law School York University

Prof. Susan Breau Faculty of Law University of Victoria Prof. Angela Cameron Shirley Greenberg Professor of Women in the Legal Profession Faculté de droit / Faculty of Law Université d’Ottawa / University of Ottawa

Prof. Roland D. Chrisjohn Department of Native Studies St. Thomas University

Prof. Minoo Derayeh Department of Equity Studies Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies York University

Prof. Richard Devlin, F.R.S.C. Associate Dean Research (Acting) Schulich School of Law Dalhousie University

Prof. Mohammad Fadel Faculty of Law University of Toronto Prof. Craig Forcese Faculté de droit / Faculty of Law Université d’Ottawa / University of Ottawa

Prof. Evan Fox-Decent, Faculty of Law / Faculté de droit McGill University / Université McGill Prof. Tracy Glynn Department of Economics St. Thomas University

Prof. Mark J. Goodman, Human Rights and Equity Studies Program Department of Sociology York University

Prof. Ricardo Grinspun, Department of Economics York University

Prof. Tania Das Gupta, Department of Equity Studies Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies York University

Prof. Ratiba Hadj-Moussa, Senior Fellow, IFK Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften Department of Sociology York University

Prof. Robin Hansen, College of Law University of Saskatchewan Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann, Ph.D, F.R.S.C. Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights (2003–16) Professor Emeritus Department of Political Science Wilfrid Laurier University

Prof. Jasminka Kalajdzic, Faculty of Law University of Windsor

Dr. Aliya Khan, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.E. Director, Fellowship in Metabolic Bone Disease Endocrinology and Metabolism and Geriatrics Division Professor of Clinical Medicine McMaster University

Dr. Baseer U. Khan, M.D., F.R.C.S.C., P.CEO. Chief, Division of Ophthalmology Southlake Regional Hospital Assistant Professor University of Toronto

Prof. Bonita Lawrence, Chair, Department of Equity Studies Coordinator, Indigenous Studies Program York University

Prof. Michael Lynk, Faculty of Law University of Western Ontario Dr. A. Wayne MacKay C.M. Q.C Professor Emeritus Shulich School of Law Dalhousie University

Prof. Kathleen Mahoney, F.R.S.C., Q.C. Trudeau Fellow, Fulbright Fellow, Sir Allen Sewell Fellow Faculty of Law University of Calgary

Prof. Paul Mkandaŵire, Co-Director Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies (Human Rights) Carleton University

Prof. Ross Pink, Political Science Department Kwantlen Polytechnic University Prof. Anna Lise Purkey, D.C.L., LL.M., B.C.L. / LL.B. Barreau du Quebec Department of Sociology and Legal Studies St. Jerome’s University University of Waterloo

Prof. Saeed Rahnema (ret.), Founding Director School of Public Policy & Administration York University Prof. A.J. Ripley Human Rights Program, Faculty of Humanities St. Thomas University

Prof. Penelope Simons, Faculté de droit / Faculty of Law Université d’Ottawa / University of Ottawa Prof. Shirley R. Steinberg Research Professor of Critical Youth Studies School of Graduate Studies University of Calgary

Prof. Anneke Smit, Faculty of Law University of Windsor

Prof. Daniel Turp, Faculté de droit / Faculty of Law Université de Montréal / University of Montreal Former Canadian Member of Parliament Former Member of the Quebec National Assembly

Prof. Ashwini Vasanthakumar, Queen’s National Scholar in Legal & Political Philosophy Faculty of Law Queen’s University

Prof. Christopher Waters, Co-Editor, Canadian Bar Review Faculty of Law University of Windsor

Prof. David A. Welch, CIGI Chair of Global Security Balsillie School of International Affairs Department of Political Science University of Waterloo

Prof. Sara Wharton, Faculty of Law University of Windsor

Dr. Gregory J. Whitfield, Centre for the Study of Democracy and Diversity Queen’s University

Prof. Cynthia Wright School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies York University

Prof. Sujith Xavier, Director of Transnational Law and Justice Network Faculty of Law, University of Windsor

Dr. Kitana Ananda, Ph.D. Educator, Researcher, Activist

Maher Arar, Ph.D. Entrepreneur, Time Magazine 100 Most Influential people in the World (2007)

Rev. Frances Deverell, Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice

Avi D’Souza, Director of Communications Union of Medical Care & Relief Organizations (Canada)

Omar Ha-Redeye, LL.B, LL.M, J.D. Fleet Street Law (Toronto, ON)

Alia Hogben Canadian Council of Muslim Women (National)

Saima Jamal, Co-founder Calgary Immigrant Support Society

Nasim Kherani, Canadian Council of Muslim Women (Edmonton)

The Hon. David Kilgour, P.C., J.D. Former Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) Former Canadian Member of Parliament

Imam / Shaikh Ahmad Kutty, Resident Scholar & Senior Lecturer Islamic Institute of Toronto

Dimitri Lascaris, LL.B. Lawyer, Journalist, Activist

Monia Mazigh, Ph.D. Author, Academic and Human Rights Advocate

Dafina Savic, Founder Romanipe (Roma Human Rights Association)

Ghislain Shema, President Association Humura de la Communauté Rwandaise

Nimet Karachi Canadian Council of Muslim Women (Niagara Region)

Mueed Peerbhoy, B.A., LL.B. Lawyer, Human Rights Activist

Zain Shah Canadian Council of Muslim Women (Toronto)

Naeem Siddiqi, Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association

Nazira Naz Tareen, President and Founder Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organization

Sarita Samaroo-Tsaktsiris B.A., LL.B. SST Law Professional Corporation

Rabbi Raysh Weiss, Ph.D. Congregation Shaar Shalom, Halifax

Rabbi Stephen Wise Shaarei-Beth El Congregation, Oakville

Thomas Woodley, President Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

L’Assemblée des Burundais du Canada

Canadian Centre for Deen Studies

Canadian Council of Imams Conflict Resolution and Research Institute of Canada

Doctors for Humanity

Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Interfaith Council of Halton

Islamic Social Services Association of Canada

Islamic Social Services Association Winnipeg

Islamic Society of North America Canada Islamic Council of North America Sisters (Winnipeg)

Karen Community of Canada

Muslim Coordinating Council, National Capital Region

Noor Cultural Centre

Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organization

Share2Care, Helping Humanity Canada

United Network for Justice & Peace in Palestine & Israel

Universalist Muslims of Canada

Vancouver Rape Relief

Women’s Shelter YWCA Canada

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