News / Ottawa

Canadians ill-informed about 'ethnic cleansing' in Myanmar, don't support intervention: Poll

Advocate says it's society's failure that people don't know about the crisis, and urges Canada to offer Rohingya a home the same way Syrians were welcomed.

Rohingya Muslim refugees walk towards refugee camps after landing in the Bangladeshi district of Teknaf on Tuesday.

AFP

Rohingya Muslim refugees walk towards refugee camps after landing in the Bangladeshi district of Teknaf on Tuesday.

Despite the global outcry about the ongoing Rohingya crisis, a new poll suggests Canadians are ill-informed about it and some don't even want Canada to get involved in helping find a solution.

Nearly a million people, predominantly Muslim-minority Rohingya from Myanmar, are currently living in deteriorating conditions as refugees in neighbouring Bangladesh. About 600,000 of them crossed the dangerous border in the past three months, fleeing a military-led attack, which the United Nations has called a "textbook of example of ethnic cleansing."

But fresh results from an Angus Reid study show nearly 35 per cent of Canadians say they haven't seen or heard anything about the crisis. Only eight per cent of respondents say they've followed the issue and discussed it with family and friends.

The federal government has committed some funding to support humanitarian intervention, and most recently promised to match charity donations until end of November. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also appointed Bob Rae as a special envoy to Myanmar to monitor the crisis.

But an overwhelming 55 per cent of Canadians think Canada should not intervene, and 33 per cent say the country is already spending too much money on the issue.

"I don't think people understand the gravity of the situation. Even the Syrian crisis wasn't that large and didn't happen that fast," said Ahmed Ramadan, an outreach coordinator for Burma Task Force Canada. The advocacy group has been calling for the international community to refer to the Rohingya crisis as a genocide and intervene to stop it.

"This is a human rights issue and it's directly in line with Canadian values and what this country stands for."

Pitasanna Shanmugathas, a University of Toronto student who has petitioned the House of Commons for Canada to offer Rohingya refugees a home the same way Syrians were welcomed, said it's society's failure that people don't know about this crisis.

"It indicates a profound sense of ignorance on the part of Canadians," he said, noting some people think refugees are a burden to Canada's economy.

"Canada has seen many communities which were previously refugee populations successfully thrive, and if allowed into Canada, the Rohingya population can be equally as successful in positively contributing to Canada's society and economy."

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