Question Period: Human Rights in Myanmar

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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Hon. Jane Cordy: Senator Gold, following the national election in Myanmar, the world watched on February 1 as the military in that country swiftly took power in a coup. As you know, the situation in Myanmar has been steadily deteriorating over the last five years. The international community has watched as human rights atrocities have occurred in the country, and now we see a return to military rule.

I know that our government has condemned the actions of the Myanmar military. Yesterday, President Biden issued an executive order that will take immediate sanctions against the military leaders who directed the coup. Today, European Parliament lawmakers called for the bloc’s governments to sanction Myanmar’s military leadership following last week’s military coup.

Does our government plan to follow the lead of the United States and adopt sanctions of our own? I’m also wondering what concrete action Canada will take in support of the people of Myanmar.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. Yes, you correctly pointed out that Canada unequivocally condemns the overthrow of Myanmar’s government by the military and is very concerned by the arrest of several civilian officials, as well as a number of political activists and civil society leaders across the country. Canada rejects any actions that undermine the civil and political rights of the people in Myanmar and threatens Myanmar’s democratic transition. I’ve been advised that the government has called upon Myanmar’s military authorities to immediately release all individuals who have been detained and restore the civilian government and halt all obstructions to the democratic process.

With regard to you question about sanctions, Canada is in regular contact with its partners. As I said on a number of occasions in other contexts, Canada believes its influence and its voice can only be strengthened when it works with like-minded allies and partners and is actively considering all options should the Myanmar military fail to reverse their course.

Senator Cordy: Thank you for that, Senator Gold. I was a member of the Human Rights Committee when we released a report on the Rohingya refugee crisis in February 2019. The title of that report was An Ocean of Misery. That gives you a sense of the kinds of things that we heard and that we learned during our study.

We heard testimony from Ambassador Bob Rae, who was at that time the special envoy of the Prime Minister to Myanmar. He detailed the atrocities that the Rohingya refugees experienced at the hand of the Myanmar military. His testimony was very powerful for us. It was very emotional.

While Myanmar is under military rule, the safety of the Rohingya living in the country will never be guaranteed. The safe return of the refugees is essentially impossible during this situation.

Will the government commit to renewing and continuing financial assistance to the human rights crisis in Myanmar supporting —

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I regret to inform you that the time for Question Period has expired.

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