News / Toronto

Canadian non-profit calls for country to take action in Rohingya violence

Campaigns organized this week meant to help victims, pressure Canadian government to intervene in Myanmar.

Rohingya people wait for relief supplies near a refugee camp in Kutupalong in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia this week. Some 270,000 refugees have fled Myanmar's violence-wracked Rakhine state and entered Bangladesh in the last fortnight, most from the Muslim Rohingya minority, the United Nations said.

AFP

Rohingya people wait for relief supplies near a refugee camp in Kutupalong in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia this week. Some 270,000 refugees have fled Myanmar's violence-wracked Rakhine state and entered Bangladesh in the last fortnight, most from the Muslim Rohingya minority, the United Nations said.

A Toronto non-profit is launching a full-fledged emergency appeal for Myanmar.

"What is happening there is beyond devastating. So many people are dying while they try to get away from violence," said Reyhana Patel, spokeswoman for Islamic Relief Canada.

"A lot more attention has to be focused on this. It's not the top story because of all the hurricane stuff, but it should be."

The group is organizing a series of events throughout the week, in an effort to both collect donations for those in need as well as mount pressure for the Canadian government to intervene and help stop the escalating violence.

The United Nations has warned that Myanmar is facing a risk of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Over 250,000 Rohingya people have fled the country since violence broke out in late August, and hundreds have been killed, according to reports from the ground.

The Rohingya people - who are a minority Muslim group in a country dominated by a Buddhist majority - have faced severe repression for a long time. The recent escalation of violence has brought the country's new leader Aung San Suu Kyi under fire. A long-time freedom fighter, she brought hope to the country when her political party won the election in 2015, but has failed to confront the oppressive military rule.

Some, including her fellow Nobel Peace Prize winners like Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzai, have written letters urging her to act in protection of people's rights.

Patel also questioned the value of Suu Kyi's honorary Canadian citizenship.

"She received it I believe on values of democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law," she said, wondering why the political leader isn't speaking up against the violence. "What [is] happening there, in front of her eyes, goes against everything that Canada stands for."

How to help:

Fundraisers are planned for 6 p.m. Saturday at the Markham Convention Centre and on Sunday at the Red Rose Convention Centre in Mississauga. More information on the campaign is available at islamicreliefcanada.org.

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