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'What's happening is a genocide': Toronto rallies in support of Rohingya people

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam are expected to address a rally scheduled for this Saturday in Toronto.

Rohingya people arrive in Bangladesh by boat on Thursday. Around 370,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to the country since late August.

Allison Joyce / Getty Images AsiaPac

Rohingya people arrive in Bangladesh by boat on Thursday. Around 370,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to the country since late August.

Torontonians continue to sound the alarm as much of Myanmar descends further into chaos.

This weekend will see a series of events to express support for civilians trapped in the conflict and to push the Canadian government to intervene.

"Right now the time is not for statements but for real actions and real solutions," said Ahmed Ramadan, co-ordinator for Burma Task Force Canada, a local branch of the global non-profit that has been advocating for the rights of the Rohingya people for the past five years.

"We need Canada. We believe Canada can play a leadership role on the global stage and help bring an immediate end to the crisis going on right now."

The group will hold a demonstration Saturday where local Myanmar-Canadians will be joined by human-rights activists and community organizers to publicly voice their concerns. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam are expected to address the rally.

Canada is home to about 5,000 people of Myanma origin, with about 2,000 of them living in the GTA, according to Statistics Canada.

Close to 400,000 Rohingyas have been displaced since a new wave of violence broke out last month, according to the United Nations. Reports suggest the military is using landmines at the border with Bangladesh, making it even more dangerous for people to get across. Amnesty International said security forces are using a "scorched-earth" policy in Rakhine state, burning villages and shooting at those fleeing.

While the UN has warned of ethnic cleansing, advocates are going even further.

"What's happening is a genocide. People should start calling it what it is," said Ramadan.

"This is an entire population of helpless civilians being targeted for who they are."

If you go:

• The rally takes place Saturday at Matt Cohen Park (725 Spadina Ave.), starting at 2:30 p.m.

• Another demonstration is being organized at Queen's Park to urge the provincial government to take action. That rally starts at 1 p.m. Saturday.

• Donation drives are planned for this Saturday in Markham and Sunday in Mississauga. More information is available at islamicreliefcanada.org.

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