A virtual meeting was held on “Evolving Rohingya Crisis and International responses: Canada’s role in repatriation and accountability and initiatives” organized by Bangabandhu Centre for Bangladesh Studies (BCBS) in Canada in association with Conflict and Resilience research Institute, Canada (CRRIC) held on 06 April 2021 from 11:30 am to 12:45pm. Mr. Kawser Ahmed, Executive Director of CRRIC and Director of BCBS moderated the webinar. Hon’ble Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Canada H.E. Dr. Khalilur Rahman, Senator Mc Phedran, Member of Parliament Mr. Brad Redekopp, Member of Parliament, Edmonton Strathcona, Ms. Heather Mc Pherson, and Professor John Packer, University of Ottawa attended the webinar as invited guestes.
At the outset Mr. kawser Ahmed welcomed all in the webinar and briefed about the newly formed Bangabandhu Centre for Bangladesh Studies (BCBS) in Canada. He then invited Bangladesh High Commissioner H.E. Dr. Khalilur Rahman to deliver his opening remarks.
Taking the floor, Bangladesh High Commissioner mentioned that this seminar was the first one organized jointly by Bangabandhu Centre for Bangladesh Studies (BCBS) in Canada in association with Conflict and Resilience research Institute, Canada (CRRIC). He mentioned that the recent military take over in Myanmar added new dimension to the Rohingya crisis. Repatriation of 1.3 million Rohingya’s to the secured home in Rakhine State in Myanmar always remained a priority along with bringing the perpetrators and most importantly genocide and crime against humanity among the Rohingya population should be brought under justice, he added. He further said that providing support from the humanitarian point of view, Canada’s role in this issue had paramount importance. He opined that today’s webinar would foster stronger relations between Canada and Bangladesh and also hoped that the work of the Bangabandhu Centre for Bangladesh studies in Canada would carry forward this collaboration in the days to come.
At this point, Hon’ble Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen said that the exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh had become a recurring phenomenon. Being a bordering country, Bangladesh was the worst victim of this protracted crisis. Apart from regular influx in last six decades, there had been a series of mass exodus of Rohingya to Bangladesh and currently, Bangladesh hosted about 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingya. HFM said that in 2017 when the Rohingya were fleeing, en mass, the violence and atrocities at the hands of their own people, it was Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who took the bold decision to give temporary shelter to these persecuted people and thus saved thousands of innocent lives. It was a magnanimous gesture on the part of Bangladesh, when many parts of the world were turning back to migrants and displaced people.
Despite numerous challenges and constraints, Bangladesh had been trying to arrange best possible humanitarian assistance to these people with the support of international community, he added. He further said that Bangladesh spent over USD 350 million from its own budget to develop an island Bhasan Char with better infrastructure and amenities to relocate a portion of Rohingyas from the over-congested and disaster-prone camps in Cox’s Bazar. He emphasized that repatriation of all displaced people to Myanmar remained a compelling priority for Bangladesh. He reiterated that regional or multilateral initiative was very much required to resolve the crisis. Canada, with its global stature and standing on human rights issues, should consider taking a lead in such initiatives and Bangladesh always stands ready to work with Canada and other partners in this direction, he added.
At this point, Senator Mc Phedran, as an independent Senator acknowledged the crisis including to appreciate Bangladesh’s role for sheltering and managing Rohingya camps. She was very pleased to see and meet with the Rohingyas during her visit in the camp in September 2019. She termed Rohingya people as the global citizen. Referring the Amb. Bob Race’s report against genocide in Myanmar, she said that Canada’s commitment was well intentioned. She also mentioned that Canada and Netherlands jointly supported the ongoing case of Gambia against Myanmar in ICJ. She mentioned that both Canada and Netherlands needed to be active in this regard. She finally reiterated that economic sanctions should be imposed without which the problem would be difficult to resolve.
At this moment, Edmonton Strathcona MP, Heather Mc Pherson, said that being a member in the sub committee of international human rights she was involved in preparing report on Rohingya crisis which was shared
with the House of Commons. The said report made ten recommendations to address the Rohingya crisis, she added. She also agreed that Canada should come forward in terms of action not only of words. She said that the escalation of the violence against unarmed people was one of the most horrific events unfolding in the world today and Canada and international community could not turn blind eye. She concluded her views by saying that Canada should come forward with actions against Myanmar junta for the human right violence against Rohingya with concrete actions.
Member of Parliament Mr. Brad Redekopp said that acknowledging the Rohingya crisis, he mentioned that recent military coup made the situation complicated for negotiation of the repatriation. He condemned the use of force in Burma. He said that Canada should be doing more to speak up leading the world specially with human rights violation and genocide that was widely reported. He then focused on the solution of the crisis and opined that an environment should be created that allow Rohingya people feel secured. Ethnic reconciliation, peaceful pluralism and full citizenship for all should be the issues to be addressed in Myanmar. To that end, Canada should take the lead immediately.
Professor John Packer at the beginning said that the pretension of democratisation and peace process of Myanmar was utterly failed which the international community must put aside and needed to clear eyes. He mentioned that EU investment quadrupled while Canadian investment continued to increase in Myanmar. He criticized that international community including Canada were not consistent in their approach to hold Myanmar. Because of this laxity, Myanmar military not only succeeded in their policy of human rights violation but also did not suffer any consequences of genocide ignoring the international condemnation. He further mentioned that there were array of companies getting subsidies and facilities trading with Myanmar which basically had been benefiting to the Myanmar military. Recognizing Bangladesh’s extraordinary conduct in receiving and providing temporary shelter for Rohingya refugees, Prof. Packer said that international community had been concerned about the new generation of Rohingyas as they were not getting education properly.
He opined that the process of ICJ would linger the issue instead getting an immediate solution. According to him, urgent action is required, otherwise that matter might be like Syrian crisis. He then viewed that political mobilization would be effective as it would clear the threat of the Myanmar regime which would pave the way for an urgent action. He then also mentioned another available mechanism that Canada might submit the document in the ICJ to commence an application or to seek an intervention under article 62 of the statute. He finally opined that the situation in Myanmar got worse and international community including Canada should step up in their actions rather than issuing statements only.