Montreal City Council has adopted a motion joining a Canada-wide campaign demanding an end to the genocide against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, a Muslim ethnic group. Ensemble Montréal leader Lionel Perez and opposition councillor Marvin Rotrand tabled the motion at a recent council meeting urging the Government of Canada to invoke the Genocide Convention against Myanmar.
The same text was circulated among municipalities nationwide with Toronto passing its own identical motion the following day. “It seems to have mushroomed,” Rotrand said of the growing campaign to draw attention to the plight of the Rohingya minority and other persecuted groups in Myanmar. A number of municipal jurisdictions have signaled their intention to come on board and press the federal government to honour its commitment to the Genocide Convention. “A lot of groups have worked on it (the motion),” Rotrand said. “We’re hoping to have someone do this in the House of Commons.”
Senator Marilou McPhedran has taken up the cause in the Senate calling on the Government of Canada to invoke the Genocide Convention with respect to the ongoing genocide committed by Myanmar against the Rohingya people and to pursue the matter before the International Court of Justice. “As a member of the international community, Canada has a duty to hold Myanmar to account for the crime of genocide committed against the Rohingya people,” she said.
“Of course, before pursuing any intervention, military or otherwise, we must exhaust the resources available to us under international human rights law, and this motion reinforces this approach.”
Canadian lawmakers have already unanimously voted to declare Myanmar’s military actions against the Rohingya people a genocide. The House of Commons endorsed the findings of a UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar that found “crimes against humanity have been committed against the Rohingya” and that these acts were sanctioned by top Myanmar military commanders. The Canadian Parliament recognized that “these crimes against the Rohingya constitute genocide.”
McPhedran’s motion along with similar municipal initiatives asks the Government of Canada to hold Myanmar accountable for its actions and to seek reparations for the Rohingya People. It asks for the release of journalists imprisoned by Myanmar, access for outside investigators, and an increase in humanitarian aid. It is estimated that as many as 1.3 million Rohingya refugees are living in a vast camp in Bangladesh following a mass exodus in 2017. Myanmar has denied accusations of genocide. However, in 2018, Canada revoked the honorary citizenship it had awarded to Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.